Burundian opposition parties rejected the appointment of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni by regional leaders to help mediate an end to the political crisis in the East African nation.
East African Community leaders announced on Monday they appointed Museveni, who has been in power since 1986, to lead talks to resolve a dispute sparked by Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza’s plan to seek a third term in office. The five-nation bloc also called for presidential elections scheduled to take place on July 15 be postponed by two weeks.
“Museveni has been in power since 1986; can he help the Burundian president to understand that a mandate limit is important? No,” Frederic Bamvuginyumvira, deputy leader of the Front for Democracy in Burundi, said in an interview Tuesday in the capital, Bujumbura. ‘I expect nothing from his work.’’
Burundi held parliamentary elections on June 29 without creating conditions for a “free, fair” vote, the United Nations Security Council said last week. The U.S. government has halted security assistance programs in the East African nation because of abuses committed by police during political protests.
Burundi has been roiled by violence that’s killed at least 77 people dead since April, when the ruling party named Nkurunziza as its presidential candidate. Opponents say the bid to extend his tenure violates a two-term limit set out in peace agreements that in 2005 brought an end to a 12-year civil war. More than 100,000 people have fled to neighboring countries in the past three months.
The unrest in Burundi has the potential to destabilize the Great Lakes region that includes the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa’s top copper and tin producer, and Rwanda, where the economy is still recovering from a genocide in 1994.
The EAC said on Monday it had asked Burundi to disarm militias allied to political parties through a demobilization exercise overseen by the African Union.
Bamvuginyumvira said the disarmament would take longer than two weeks. “It took years and years to arm them,” he said. “Do you think they can hand over their weapons easily?”
The regional body also asked that presidential elections be held on July 30 and that the winning party share power with losers in a government of national unity.
Burundi government spokesman Philippe Nzobonariba said by telephone that “comment on the summit will be available when the delegation is back” in Burundi.
Nkurunziza did not attend Monday’s meeting in Tanzania. He took part in the last summit in May, during which a group of generals led by the country’s former intelligence chief tried to overthrow him in his absence.
His ruling CNDD-FDD party has demanded a UN mediator helping to end the political crisis step down for not showing “neutrality in his work”.