Burundi has rejected a report by the East African Community-mediated Inter-Burundi Dialogue, which calls for a review of the Constitution to take into account the provisions of the Arusha Accord of 2000.
The facilitator of the Dialogue, former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa, presented his report at the February 1 East African Community Heads of State Summit in Arusha.
However, Burundi’s Vice-President Gaston Sindimwo, who represented President Pierre Nkurunziza at the meeting, said his country would “not reverse the decision approved by the citizens.”
He was referring to the 2018 constitutional referendum to remove presidential term limits.
“The new Constitution was approved by Burundians. Burundi will not discuss issues related to the Constitution,” Mr Sindimwo said in Bujumbura.
Mr Sindimwo disputed the findings of the facilitator and insisted that Burundi was peaceful.
The EastAfrican has learnt that Mr Mkapa has given up out of frustration, citing the government’s lack of interest in the talks. He told the Summit that Burundi had refused to attend the fifth round of negotiations and for the fourth round, the government sent junior officials incapable of making decisions.
Mr Mkapa said the Burundi government held a referendum to remove term limits and was planning an election without reference to the facilitator.
Sources at the meeting said Mr Mkapa admitted he was frustrated and handed the process back to the negotiator, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
Apparently, President Museveni then tried to hand the process to incoming chairman President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, who declined.
President Museveni reportedly asked Burundi to stop accusing the EAC of meddling in its affairs.
“He went way back in time to cite instances where the regional bloc had served as a guarantor for peace in Burundi,” said a source.
In an apparent reference to a letter sent last year by President Nkurunziza, Mr Sindimwo reminded the Summit that Burundi had requested a special summit to discuss relations between it and Rwanda. But The EastAfrican understands that the leaders did not dwell on that matter.
On May 17, 2018, Burundi conducted a referendum to amend the 2005 Constitution, increasing the presidential term from five to seven years and scrapping term limits. The new Constitution also prohibits the extradition of citizens for prosecution in foreign courts.
Burundi opposition leader and Deputy Speaker of parliament Agathon Rwasa unsuccessfully contested the results of the referendum. Now he wants the region’s heads of state to help the country come up with a road map for the 2020 general election, in which President Nkurunziza said he will not run.
The 20th Ordinary East African Community Heads of State Summit was postponed twice last year due to lack of quorum caused by the absence of Burundi.
When the meeting finally took place on February 1, President Museveni handed over the chairmanship to President Kagame.
Since 2015, relations between Burundi and Rwanda have continued to deteriorate. Burundi accuses Rwanda of training Burundi refugees to oust President Nkurunziza’s government, and sheltering the 2015 coup plotters. Rwanda accuses Burundi of hosting FDLR rebels, who are accused of carrying out the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.