Do not amend Burundi’s constitution, Mkapa says

The 4th round of the inter-Burundi dialogue has taken place in Arusha, Tanzania, to try to resolve the current Burundi crisis. The ruling party, CNDD-FDD, refuses to sit down with the main coalition of political opponents in exile, CNARED, saying they are wanted criminals in Burundi. The facilitator met with the two parties separately.

William Benjamin Mkapa, facilitator in Burundi Conflict “"The timing is not right to amend the Burundi constitution,"

William Benjamin Mkapa, facilitator in Burundi Conflict “”The timing is not right to amend the Burundi constitution,”

“What is CNARED? It is an organization created to cover the coup plotters. I cannot help them mount a coup against Burundi’s democratically elected institutions, I am a democrat. They must wait for 2020 elections,” Evariste Ndayishimiye, the Secretary General of the CNDD-FDD, Burundi’s ruling party, told journalists on 17 February.

Ndayishimiye who heads the presidential party delegation told the facilitator that his members could not sit at the same negotiating table with the people who tried to overthrow the government.

On 16 February, the presidential party strongly criticised the inter-Burundi dialogue for including alleged coup-plotters on the list of participants. For the CNDD-FDD, inviting indicted criminals would only result in another coup.

After the ruling party refused to sit down with the opposition, the facilitator, Benjamin Mkapa, met with the opposition in a hotel outside the International Arusha Conference Center.

Anicet Niyonkuru, CNARED Secretary General, says that CNARED delegation was not present to attend the dialogue session. “We came to Arusha to meet with the facilitator,” he says.

The facilitator eventually formed five different groups of participants, and each group discussed four key points: the return of refugees, the improvement of the political climate, the question of economic sanctions on Burundi and the return of exiled politicians.

A resolution containing the proposals of each group on these points will be adopted this Sunday, in the presence of Mkapa.

Conditions are not favourable to amend the constitution

Mukapa called on Burundi’s leaders to respect the spirit of the Arusha Agreement and the constitution. “The timing is not right to amend the Burundi constitution,” Mukapa said.

However, the Council of Ministers of Burundi on 16 February established a commission to amend the Burundian constitution. Philipe Nzobonariba, the Secretary-General of the Government, said that the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), the National Inter-Burundian Dialogue Commission (CNDI) and the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) all proposed an analysis of the constitution because a number of articles do not correspond to the current situation in the country.

Burundi was plunged into crisis on 26 April, 2015, when the ruling party CNDD-FDD officially announced the candidacy of President Pierre Nkurunziza in the upcoming elections. Some politicians and members of civil society were opposed to it because, according to them, the constitution and the Arusha Peace Agreement do not allow him to run for a third term. Since then, more than 500 people have died and more than 350,000 have fled the country, according to UN reports.