East African community summit fails to solve Burundi crisis
Government accepts, opposition rejects summit recommendation to delay elections

A regional summit held in East Africa has failed to end the political crisis in Burundi, as the government accepted calls for delayed elections while the opposition rejected the summit’s recommendations outright.

The summit was held in Dar es Salam, the economic capital of Tanzania, which is Burundi’s eastern neighbor.

According to a statement from Richard Sezibera, the Rwandan secretary general of the East African Community that organized the summit, heads of state had three core recommendations: delaying elections in Burundi by at least a month and a half, disarming armed youth groups as soon as possible, and encouraging Bujumbura, the Burundian capital, to "create an appropriate climate for Burundian refugees to return to their country.”

A few hours after the release of the statement on Sunday, Burundian government spokesman Philip Nkurunziza announced in a press statement that Bujumbura "accepted the recommendations issued by the Dar es Salam summit, as the proposed period (a month and a half) falls within the limits of the constitution.”

According to the previous timeline, the parliamentary and local elections were expected to take place on June 5, 2015, and the presidential elections on June 26.

For its part, the Burundian opposition expressed its "disappointment” regarding the recommendations arising from the regional summit.

In a statement made on Monday to the Anadolu Agency, Jean Minani, president of the Front for Democracy in Burundi party, said: "The delay (of the elections) was inevitable considering the insecurity in Burundi… the struggle must continue for us.”

The Front for Democracy in Burundi party is one of the most prominent opposition groups in the country and has called for people to take to the streets in protest over President Pierre Nkurunziza’s nomination for a third presidential term.

Agathon Rwasa, one of the other most prominent opposition leaders in Burundi, told the Anadolu Agency: "We maintain our rejection of elections which recognize the nomination of Nkurunziza, and we call for the creation of an international military force to secure the elections due to the pervading presence and spread of the governing party’s armed youth.”

Rwasa is the leader of the National Liberation Forces party, which is not recognized by the Burundian government.

In a statement to the Anadolu Agency, the president of Burundi’s ruling party, Pascal Nyabenda, said the additional period must be used only to better preparations for the elections and not be used for dialogue with others.

Burundi has been rocked by protest since the ruling the National Council for the Defense of Democracy – Forces for the Defense of Democracy named President Pierre Nkurunziza – in power since 2005 – its candidate for the June presidential polls.

The situation took a turn for the worse earlier last month when a group of army generals staged a failed coup attempt against Nkurunziza while he was attending a regional summit in Tanzania.

The opposition says Nkurunziza does not have the right to seek a third term, citing Burundi's constitution, which limits the number of terms a president can serve to two.

However, Burundi's Constitutional Court recently ruled that Nkurunziza's third-term bid would not violate the constitution.

The court ruled that, since he was elected in 2005 by parliament and not by the people, Nkurunziza's first stint in office should not be counted as a first presidential term per se.

Last Modified: 2015-06-01 15:01:47
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