Backlash from Burundi Ombudsman

The office of the Burundian Ombudsman tried to “reframe” the Nairobi meeting. In a statement issued on 18 September, Edouard Nduwimana attempted to downplay what has been seen as a major step towards an agreement on the return of the exiled opponents to the country.

Some CNARED members

It looks like an answer to a request for an explanation. The discomfort is expressed throughout the release. Actually, it became greater following the announcement of an imminent “negotiated return” of the opposition in exile with a government delegation. The announcement made public the secret deals between CNARED and Gitega delegations following the meeting that took place in Nairobi-Kenya from August 30 to September 2, 2019.

The main point on the agenda was organizing the return of the exiled opponent politicians.

The meeting would have resulted in a “certain consensus on the topics discussed”. These include the repatriation into a single group of all political opponents, the lifting of judicial warrants issued against some of them and a provision of a clean security unit.

According some participants, a meeting was scheduled in Bujumbura on September 18, 2019. Under the request of the external opposition, a member of the government would have been present for the signing of an agreement.

“While the opposition delegation was on standby, it receives a phone call from the Finnish NGO announcing the postponement of the meeting in Bujumbura sine die, without further details on September 13,” said one of the participants.

At this moment, Cnared understands that something is happening in
Bujumbura city…

Burundi Ombudsman at least assumes…

The negotiations of the Nairobi meeting are firstly revealed by Iwacu Press Group at the beginning of the week. The Ombudsman’s office is beset by requests for reactions. Finally, the office decided to issue a press release to ‘clarify the situation’. The Burundian Ombudsman said he met “good guys”. He described CNARED delegation as “the peaceful opposition living in exile”. According to him, it’s far from the idea of ​​a meeting with “Gitega pariahs- i.e. those who are wanted by the Burundian justice”.

Nduwimana also indicated that Nairobi meeting was neither a “dialogue process” nor the “negotiation”. Indeed, the statement revealed a two-day talk with protagonists of the ruling power during which the Ombudsman’s office allowed them to discuss on the conditions of their return. They demand guarantees.

The Burundian Ombudsman said he was not appointed by Pierre Nkurunziza or his government. He would have acted alone in the context of the law that allows him to do such missions on daily basis.

Former Minister of Home Affairs claimed to have warned them that the meeting was the last before the 2020 elections. He told them that the government was busy, particularly in the preparation of the next elections.


Edouard Nduwimana states nowhere the ultimate meeting, as it is highlighted by the CNARED, which had been planned in Bujumbura City on September 18th. It should last two days to clear all the technical questions. Why did he fail to mention this essential information? On the other hand, he insists that he told his protagonists that the Nairobi meeting was the last before the elections.

It is clear that the Burundian Ombudsman has not been able to convince some of the government’s top authorities. It is hard to say how much their divergence has been, even though rumors suggest that the arrest warrant was the main point of contention. “Why do they behave like winners wanting to impose conditions and guarantees, if they want to return home, they should come,” said a senior government official.

It is also improbable that the Ombudsman’s approach was improvised without the approval of the government, no matter what the press release revealed out. Contacted by Iwacu the day after his release, Juma Rukumbi, Director of Communication in the Ombudsman’s office said that their mission expenses are released by the Ministry of Finances. It’s a usual way of informing the government of the mission and its objectives.

According to several observers who are close to the “government system”, it also seems that President Nkurunziza was not informed of such a sensitive approach like a meeting with opponents in exile. The statement obviously insinuates that the Head of State and his government don’t want to be associated with these negotiations.

At the time of the elections, the political calculations are made and discarded. Those who say they are in favor of the mass return of the opposition in exile would have a major goal: to succeed in curbing CNL party’s rapid progress, a real opposition that monopolizes all the votes against the ruling party system. Some voices even say that CNARED would help to weaken the rise of CNL party…


CNARED: “It’s not just a simple change; it’s a question of survival”

According to Onésime Nduwimana, Cnared spokesman, the Nairobi meeting did take place. And the Ombudsman has proven very well that he was mandated by the government. The meeting was an extension of many other meetings that took place between CNARED and the government. These meetings had even seen the participation of generals like General Maurice who is among the “hardliners” of the regime. Another technical meeting was planned for two days in Bujumbura, which should finalize the technical aspects of an agreement in order to materialize their compromises. “The Ombudsman’s communiqué cannot be seen as just a change of heart. It is also a matter of survival, the Ombudsman was surely threatened by the enemies of peace, “said the former spokesman for CNDD-FDD party, now in exile. He wants to be optimistic. CNARED does not consider that it means the end of the talks. “This is one of many steps, but also a proof that the ruling team is no longer coherent, that it is afraid of peace and fair elections. So, in reality, the party has almost no one behind it. ”

Agnes Ndirubusa translated by Diane Uwimana