Burundi opposition to resume talks with government

Agence France-Presse
A protestor opposed to the Burundian President's third term is snatched by members of the Imbonerakure, the youth wing of the ruling party, armed with sticks in the Kinama neighborhood of Bujumbura on May 25, 2015.
CARL DE SOUZA

Opposition parties in Burundi said Wednesday they are ready to resume talks to find a solution to the weeks-long political crisis triggered by President Pierre Nkurunziza's controversial third term bid.

A group of 17 political parties and organizations issued a joint statement reaffirming their "commitment to continued dialogue" aimed at ensuring "free, calm, transparent and credible elections."

The opposition's statement followed a summit on Burundi's political crisis over the weekend during which regional heads of state asked that presidential elections, due on June 26, be postponed until at least mid-July.

"For us the issue of Nkurunziza's third term remains non-negotiable, but as regional heads of state have formulated a framework for dialogue, we are ready to discuss this issue around the table," said Charles Nditije of the UPRONA party.

"There is no taboo issue," he said, adding that protests should continue in the meantime.

Unrest continued Wednesday with parliamentary elections due in two days.

At least one man was killed in a grenade attack during a night of sporadic gunshots after which security forces were deployed Wednesday throughout Bujumbura, which has seen more than a month of protests.

On Wednesday a rare anti-Nkurunziza protest was held outside the capital. Thousands of people, displaced since the 13-year civil war ended in 2006, demonstrated in the president's home province of Ngozi, in the north of the country.

But in Bujumbura police were out in force to block attempts by protesters to take to the streets, witnesses said, two days before the scheduled parliamentary election.

The slightest sign of a group gathering was met with automatic weapons fire and the use of tear gas, AFP correspondents said.

Nkurunziza hopes to win a third term in elections due later this month, but opponents say his candidacy is unconstitutional and goes against the 2006 Arusha peace deal that ended 13 years of civil war.

Burundi's electoral commission is meanwhile considering whether to hold the parliamentary vote on schedule on Friday.

Nkurunziza survived a coup attempt last month and has since ignored international pressure, including aid cuts, aimed at forcing him to withdraw, or at least delay the vote.