Burundi Parties Agree to Talks; Government to Free Detainees

Burundi’s government has agreed to release 1,200 people it has detained, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said after a meeting with President Pierre Nkurunziza in the capital, Bujumbura.
The ruling and opposition parties have also agreed to sit down and negotiate an end to the deadly violence that begun with Nkurunziza’s decision in April to seek a third term, a move critics say was unconstitutional. About 440 people have been killed in the landlocked nation that’s home to 6 percent of the world’s nickel reserves.

The presidency said on its Twitter account that 2,000 prisoners would be released.

“There is no time to lose,” Ban told reporters in Bujumbura, adding that 240,000 people had fled their homes. “Burundi needs economic recovery and reconciliation.”

The government said last month it would not participate in crisis talks that had been scheduled to begin in neighboring Tanzania in January.

The UN has warned the political crisis risks dragging the country back into a civil war and the visit has raised expectations that Ban will put even more pressure on the government and opponents to end the bloodshed.

Ban’s visit comes after authorities canceled arrest warrants issued for opposition figures, including Leonard Nyangoma, head of the Cnared coalition that protested Nkurunziza’s re-election, and Gervais Rufyikiri, a former vice president. Two private radio stations that closed after a failed military coup in May were given permission to reopen.

Ban is scheduled to travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday and South Sudan on Thursday.

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