Burundi rules out talks with ‘rebel’ opposition

President of Burundi Pierre Nkurunziza. Image source defenceweb

President of Burundi Pierre Nkurunziza. Image source defenceweb

Burundi’s government ruled out Wednesday talks with key opposition groups, rejecting calls by the influential Catholic Church for all sides to negotiate to ensure no return to civil war.

While the government “totally agrees” with the Church’s call earlier this week for dialogue, “there will never be any negotiations with those who are charged with insurrection, and want to bring our country into chaos and war,” presidential communications chief Willy Nyamitwe said.

“There is no alternative but to catch them and judge them.”

President Pierre Nkurunziza won a highly controversial third term in July in polls boycotted by the opposition and denounced by the United Nations as neither free nor fair.

His re-election bid sparked an attempted coup by rebel generals and months of civil unrest led by opposition groups, who condemned it as unconstitutional.

The government accuses those who took part in the protests against his third term of “insurrection”.

Nyamitwe ruled out any discussion with Cnared, the anti-third term coalition founded in August involving most of the opposition and civil society leaders.

“Cnared is not recognised by law, and its leaders have promised put the country to the fire and the sword,” he said.

Earlier this month arrest warrants were issued for leaders of the “uprising” and the failed coup, although specific names were not released.

The Catholic Church, followed by some 60 percent of the population, has spoken out against the president, saying his third-term went against a peace deal that helped end the 1993-2006 civil war, in which at least 300,000 people were killed.

“It is necessary that the real actors in the conflict, fighting for power, sit together immediately,” the statement broadcast on Catholic radio and read in churches earlier this week said.

Burundi’s constitution only allows a president to be elected twice — for a total of 10 years in power.

But Nkurunziza argued ahead of the poll that he had only been directly elected by the people once. In power since 2005, when he was selected by parliament, he was first re-elected in 2010.

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