Angola, South Africa leaders for EAC summit on Burundi

Heads of state from Angola and South Africa will tomorrow join their counterparts from the East African Community in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in an effort to pacify Burundi.
Burundian refugees at Mahama camp in Kirehe District. (Timothy Kisambira)
Burundian refugees at Mahama camp in Kirehe District. (Timothy Kisambira)

Heads of state from Angola and South Africa will tomorrow join their counterparts from the East African Community in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in an effort to pacify Burundi.

The EAC presidents will be meeting for the second emergency meeting on Burundi, where dozens have been killed and over 100,000 have fled over the past month, following disputes over President Pierre Nkurunziza’s eligibility to seek re-election.

A statement from the EAC Secretariat said the summit will be attended by South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma and his Angolan counterpart Eduardo dos Santos.

Dos Santos is the current chair of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICLGR).

Richard Owora Othieno, the EAC head of corporate communications and public affairs, said the presence of the two leaders at the summit is significant as regional leaders convene to try and bring back peace in Burundi.

Othieno said: “Nelson Mandela of South Africa was instrumental in Burundi’s Arusha agreement that set the stage for peace and development in that country, before handing over to his predecessor. So, South Africa has a stake in the peace process.”

“The Angolan president is the current chair of ICGLR where Burundi is a member. It would be improper for the president not to be interested in what is going on in Burundi. His role is critical in finding a solution to the current challenges.”

The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, is also among the leaders invited for the emergency summit. The Secretary-General of the United Nations will be represented by his envoy to the Great Lakes region.

The latest EAC emergency summit on Burundi was called by President Jakaya Kikwete, chair of the EAC.

President Nkurunziza is still determined to run for presidency despite continued protests that have resulted in over 30 deaths, including the assissination of Union for Peace and Development party leader, Zedi Feruzi last week.

The influential Burundian Catholic Church, on Thursday, announced it had dropped the backing for the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections.

A statement from Burundi’s bishops on Thursday criticised “the manner in which the elections have been organised and the way they are evolving” and the Church also asked priests serving in electoral commissions across the country to step down.

In the statement, read out on a Catholic radio by Bishop Gervais Bashimiyubusa, the Church said it cannot endorse “an election riddled with shortcomings.”

Earlier this month, Belgium, the biggest bilateral backer of Burundi’s electoral process, suspended aid for elections following violent clashes between security forces and protesters.

The European Union has suspended its election monitoring mission in Burundi, a decision they linked to restrictions on the media, excessive force against demonstrators and a climate of intimidation, it said.

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