November 25, 2020

Burundi President Rules Out Mediator With Rwanda

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UN special envoy for the great lakes region Huang Xia (left) was in Burundi on Tuesday for meeting with President Ndayishimiye

President Evariste Ndayishimiye has dismissed a UN proposal for a third interlocutor to mediate between Burundi and Rwanda.

UN special envoy for the great lakes region Huang Xia was in Burundi on Tuesday for meeting with President Ndayishimiye. A readout of the meeting issued by Burundi presidency says the UN envoy informed the president that Rwanda preferred a third foreign entity to resolve of a key sticking point between the two countries.

Burundi has demanded that before any reconciliation talks begin, Rwanda hands over all people involved in the 2015 failed coup, whom it says are hiding in Rwanda.

The UN envoy, according to the readout, informed President Ndayishimiye that Rwanda preferred the issue be dealt with through a mediator.

The UN envoy also reportedly said Rwanda was committed to handing over the coup elements, but wants the process done through a mediated settlement.

In response, reads the meeting readout, President Ndayishimiye said Rwanda and Burundi don’t need a foreign mediator as the two countries are a lot closer in many ways.

Burundi and Rwanda, said Ndayishimiye, can very easily resolve all their difference through the shared language; Kinyarwanda and Kirundi which are closely associated.

Ndayishimiye said the issue of coup plotters hiding in Rwanda is the sole contentious aspect still hampering restoration of relations.

After the failed coup that attempted to oust late president Pierre Nkurunziza, more than 400,000 refugees fled to neighboring countries. They have since been returning.

At the same time, Burundi closed its border with Rwanda, imposing an economic embargo on its northern neighbor. As a result, Burundian fish and fruits that came to Rwanda stopped. Today, prices of such items on Rwanda market have more than doubled.

In a surprise turn of events, military intelligence chiefs from either side met at the Nemba border in September. A follow up meeting of foreign ministers also took place, in which each reportedly handed the other a sealed envelope containing demands.

President Ndayishimiye told the UN envoy Xia that in December, justice ministers from both sides will meet to work out the “practical modalities in relation to the coup plotters”.

Since 2015, Rwanda has tended to distance itself from events that happened in Burundi then and subsequent years. Kigali says what is taking place there was purely a Burundian internal political issue.

Burundi on the other hand including President Ndayishimiye himself and more openly his foreign minister, have accused the Rwandan government and military of fomenting rebellion in Burundi.

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