They came, they saw, they went back

“Veni, vidi … “, ” I came, I saw…” But like Julius Caesar, they will not say they have “conquered.”

CNARED emissaries in Bujumbura to organize the return of the platform

In the blazing sun of Saturday, October 5th, two opponents who had fled the country for years arrived at Melchior Ndadaye International Airport. They are the Executive Secretary of the opposition platform in exile-CNARED, Anicet Niyonkuru and Mamès Bansubiyeko.

Many people imagine how and why these two politicians return home. They refused to speak to the media. Mr. Bansubiyeko would have said it is a visit to the country as any Burundian can do. The president of FNL party, Jacques Bigirimana who was waiting for them at the airport,drove them in his convoy under a police escort.

It is only Monday that the newsbroke (by Iwacu). The two politicianshave not just “returned home “. The case is more complex. They are the emissaries of the opposition coalition in exile-CNARED. Their mission is to finalize the negotiations in order to prepare the return of other members of the platform.

“For the moment, we are talkingto the country’s leaders to prepare for the return of the greatest number of my fellow politicians who are still abroad. I have to return with my fellow politicians,” said Anicet Niyonkuru, the head of the delegation.

This information was confirmed by the Assistant to the Minister of the Interior. Tharcisse Niyongabo said that he had spoken with the two emissaries.

They are on a mission to inquire about the situation prevailing in the country, to visit certain places and meet some leaders. “We had called on them to return “.

Arrest warrants pose a problem

The two politicians are in the country until October 11, the date of the end of their mission. They afterwards plan to return to Brussels to report the outcome of their mission to the coalition.
Until then, the ongoing negotiations would block the issue of lifting the arrest warrants issued against 32 political opponents, figures of the civil society as well as Burundian journalists.

The opponents wanted by justice who seek to return to the country fear to be apprehended by justice as soon as they arrive and end upbehind bars. They ask forthe guarantees of their security.
Tharcisse Niyongabo tries to reassure. “That does not mean that as soon as they arrive in Burundi, they will be directly incarcerated. It depends on the crimes they have committed. It is the justice that will judge them after hearing them”.

The position of Gitega is clear: Nopardonfor those who are wanted by the Burundian justice. It’s a difficult equationas says a reliable source. The “deal” would allow some, considered “harmless” to return and ask them to appear before the court which would be ready to play the game: declaring that there are no grounds to prosecute them and therefore abandon the case.

Discussions that date from long ago

The secret talks between the two sides have been held several times. The latest is the meeting from 30 August to 2 September in Nairobi, Kenya. The Ombudsman-led delegation metCNARED delegation to study the same question: the return of the opposition in exile.

The meeting would lead to a consensus on the issues addressed. A meeting was scheduled in Bujumbura for 18 September 2019. The aim was to conclude the signing of a memorandum. Meanwhile, Nairobi talkswere revealed to the press. The Ombudsman was forced to release a statement announcing that he was not mandated by the power in place.

The position of CNARED is very clear: this coalition of the opposition in exile wants to return to the country to participate in the 2020 elections. A decision nurtured during a meeting of the Executive Board of the platform from 2 to 4August, 2019.

“Our activists in the country have decided that they will vote at any cost,” saidthe opposition platform in exile. For it, it is out of the question to give another gift to CNDD-FDDruling party by boycotting the elections again. They must try to recover at all cost their electorate left alone in the country.

The coalition of opposition forcesgets involved

The coalition of opposition forces, CFOR issued a statement denouncing the negotiations between Gitega and CNARED. It’s worth reminding that this new coalition has as its main members those who leftCNARED. It was created on September 9, 2019, and soon called for a boycott of the next elections.

In a communiqué released on 9 October, this coalition said the talks taking place in Bujumbura do not concern all the opposition in exile. For CFOR, CNARED wants to make believe that it includes the majority of the opposition in exile. It was not mandated to negotiate anything with the regime. “CFOR sees this approach as a political swindle. It will not be concerned by a compromise resulting from these negotiations. They have no mandate to negotiate the cancellation of these “fanciful” arrest warrants which in no case can serve as bargaining chip for the abandonment of the struggle for the restoration of the Arusha Agreement”. The new coalition calls for inclusive negotiations.

Analysis by AgnèsNdirubusa

A “significant” rapprochement

Several observers have already started to speak of a “significant” step between the power in place and theopposition in exile. Gitega seemed reluctant to admit that discussionswith the oppositionhavetaken place.

The Burundian Ombudsman even issued a statement when the secret meeting in Nairobi was turned into a media event. He denied having represented the government, speaking of a personal initiative.
The spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior says that the government is now holding discussions with its protagonists.

Moreover, the fact that these discussions are not taking place in a neutral place but in Bujumbura seems to reinforce the certainty of a significant rapprochement without the help of the mediation of the sub-region. During the two years of the mediation process, the protagonists never met face to face in the country to discuss the real issues.

It remains to be seen whether the two sides will reach an agreement and, if they reachone, whether it will be implemented. Gitega is known for its turnarounds. Nevertheless, the electoral issues are enormous.

Moreover, the government needs the return of the opponents to carry out its campaign of mass return of Burundian refugees. The numbers of those who return are far from being satisfactory. The government was expecting the return of 2000 refugees a week thanks to its bilateral agreement with Tanzania. For the agreement to succeed, Gitega is called for more flexibility.


Originally written by Agnès Ndirubusa and translated into English by

Pierre Emmanuel Ngendakumana