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Burundi government calls for ‘frank’ dialogue with opposition

President of Burundi Pierre Nkurunziza. Image source defenceweb

President of Burundi Pierre Nkurunziza. Image source defenceweb

An aide to Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza on Thursday called for “a frank and constructive dialogue” with the opposition, who have driven weeks of street protests against his bid to stand for a third term.

Nkurunziza’s communications advisor, Willy Nyamitwe, said although the government considered the president’s bid to be perfectly legal, he said for the first time that the matter was not “taboo”.

“It is true that during previous discussions, we have left the issue on the menu” during a summit of regional powers that was held in neighbouring Tanzania last Sunday, he told AFP.

“So this question (of a third mandate) should not come up again. But for the president, it is not a taboo subject,” he added, urging the opposition to engage in “a frank, constructive dialogue” so that elections can be held.

Although still standing by Nkurunziza’s bid for re-election, the comments nevertheless mark a more conciliatory stance by the authorities — who have previously said the entire matter was not up for discussion.

Close to 40 people have died in protests that began when Nkurunziza announced in late April that he would stand again, after Burundi’s constitutional court gave him the green light. Opponents say his candidacy is unconstitutional and goes against the 2006 Arusha peace deal that ended 13 years of civil war.

Nkurunziza survived a coup attempt last month and has since ignored international pressure, including aid cuts, aimed at forcing him to reconsider.

On Wednesday parliamentary polls that were scheduled for Friday were postponed. The presidential election is still on the calendar for June 26.

A group of 17 political parties and organisations also issued a joint statement on Wednesday reaffirming their “commitment to continued dialogue” aimed at ensuring “free, calm, transparent and credible elections”.

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