Mkapa reduces his ambitions

The facilitation office has finally concluded that an agreement will not be signed at the end of this session. The points of divergence will be submitted to the summit of the EAC Heads of State.

Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge, the hotel that hosted the 4th round of talks.

Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge, the hotel that hosted the 4th round of talks.

The facilitator had presented a very ambitious project: two weeks of dialogue to reach an end to the crisis in Burundi. To achieve this, he banked on a study of eight major substantive issues by participants. Group work and plenary debate, a real program that suggested an ambitious but equally achievable project.

One day before the conclusion of the dialog sessions, the former Tanzanian president made an assessment: no agreement envisaged in a context of divergent points of view of the protagonists.

According to Benjamin Mkapa, the points which have been disagreed on require more consultation in order to find a solution to the political stalemate. The facilitator promises to submit the various proposals to the mediator and the EAC Heads of State Summit for further guidance.

The facilitation got disappointed

The protagonists have therefore spent two weeks working, each group in its corner, on proposals to be submitted. The plenary sessions initially planned by the facilitation did not take place. The facilitator in his statement on Thursday blames the lack of converging ideas among stakeholders who have stuck to their guns in informal meetings with the facilitation and this “despite the efforts of the latter.”

We already felt the air of disappointment blow on Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge. First of all, he was the in-person facilitator who on the eighth day said he was “disappointed” by the slow pace of the protagonists working to converge on one or two documents to be studied in order to avoid having several documents.

A disappointment also from participants who speak more and more of the weakness of the facilitation in the coordination and organization of the activities.

For the closing of this 4th round, no signing agreement on the horizon with as guests, the Heads of State of the East African community as earlier announced by the facilitation. The plenary session was scheduled on Friday, and the representatives of different groups would each have 5 minutes to comment on the document submitted by the facilitation and propose amendments.

Spotlight on some proposals from the government side as well as those of the opposition

The government, CNDD-FDD party and its allies

• Commitment to respect the Arusha Agreement

• Adopt return and confidence-building measures among political actors and avoid hate speech;

• Continue to adopt measures to encourage the return of political actors as well as refugees who have fled rumors spread during the 2015 elections,

• Continue the process of disarming people who illegally possess weapons;

• Recognize that the revision of a country’s constitution is a matter of sovereignty;

• Reaffirm the commitment to human rights and the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms;

• Encourage the merging or reunification of political parties that wish to do so;

• Recommend the Government to guarantee the politico-media space for all the parties involved in the elections;

• Adopt a road map and a non-violence charter for the 2020 elections;

• Internalize the inter-Burundian dialogue to continue discussions on the issues of divergence and the implementation of the points of convergence contained in this Road Map;

Actors and parties of the opposition

• Immediate cessation of all forms of persecution, forced disappearances, arbitrary imprisonment, and even massive repression.

• Security guarantee for exiled people and refugees to facilitate a peaceful return to Burundi.

• Effective and immediate disarmament of all illegally armed civilians and dismantling of paramilitary groups and militias.

• Commitment to respect the spirit and the letter of the Arusha Agreement.

• Suspension of the revision process of the Constitution and Code of Criminal Procedure.

• Rehabilitation of fragmented political parties which are FNL, UPRONA and UPD – Zigamibanga.

• Lifting of arrest warrants and immediate cessation of all forms of persecution of those who do not speak the same language as the government

• Eradicate stigma and hatred towards opponents.

• Reaffirmation that no President may exceed two successive terms

• Establishment of consensual institutions for the implementation of the concluded agreement as well as a joint monitoring and evaluation mechanism with a mandate to ensure strict implementation of what has been agreed upon. This mechanism will be mixed with a national, international (United Nations, African Union) and sub-regional component (EAC).

Analysis/A predictable failure

In order to make an assessment of the day of the closing of the talks, let’s start with good news. The protagonists have finally dealt with the substance of the issues. The eight points suggested by the facilitation had as an objective to gather the roots of the problem of the Burundian crisis. Stakeholders took time, each in their group, and laid out papers summarizing their positions on substantive issues.

The bad news is that this work has displayed positions that many observers call “irreconcilable. The opposition and the government sides have stuck to their guns.

Is it not a false trial? There was no debate, no one went to the other. The face-to-face interaction did not take place. Can one blame the two camps for refusing to cooperate if they have not been put together to communicate and find a compromise in this case? A serious flaw of the facilitation.

Its program promised plenary sessions to reach a compromise through real face-to- face talks that have long been desired. Instead of plenary debates, the facilitator chose to meet with each group. A strategy that, in view of the result, did not help to move things forward. In any case, the information on the spot deplores the limits of the facilitation that has not kept its promise to launch the debate and allow the protagonists to make a clean breast of things, once and for all.

At the end, the facilitation did not achieve its goals. It had set itself as a goal the signing of an agreement that would make it possible to deal with the crisis at the end of the 4the round. Burundians will have to wait.

Written by Agnès Ndirubusa and translated by Pierre Emmanuel Ngendakumana