Top exiled civil society activists doubt Facilitator’s willingness to end Burundi crisis

From left to right: Pacifique Nininahazwe, Pierre Claver                                                                                                                                                                          Mbonimpa (President of APRODH) and Armel Niyongere.

From left to right: Pacifique Nininahazwe, Pierre Claver Mbonimpa (President of APRODH) and Armel Niyongere.

Exiled civil society leaders say they doubt Benjamin Mkapa’s willingness to help end the Burundi crisis.

The Facilitator recently invited them to a two-day meeting due to take place in Entebbe, Uganda from 24 May.

The invitation excludes rights group leaders wanted by the Burundi justice. They will be represented by delegates.

Further, the Facilitator said neither his office nor international organisations such as the EAC and UN, will be responsible for the security of the representatives of the rights groups.

“All that shows the facilitator never wanted to meet some of the civil society leaders from the start”, says Pacifique Nininahazwe, the Chairman of the now-banned FOCODE.

The rights group leaders are surprised that the Facilitator still considers arrest warrants that the international community never acted upon.“It seems he is collaborating with the government of Bujumbura”, says Armel Niyongere, the exiled Chairman of the now-banned ACAT.

Though the civil society organisations don’t think Mkapa really wants to solve the problem of Burundi, they say they will send representatives. “We will send our delegates so they can express our doubts on the Facilitator’s behaviour in fulfilling the mission the region gave him”, says Niyongere.

The leaders say they risked being arrested and their lives were threatened when Mkapa had invited them to a session in Tanzania in July, last year. They say the Facilitator never cared about what happened to them.

They say, for the next meeting, Mkapa told them their security concerns would be considered in the forthcoming summit of the Heads of EAC States.

Mkapa’s invitation to meet the exiled civil society leaders responds to their repeated claim to be included in the inter-Burundian dialogue. Their argument is that they were among the first to oppose President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term in office in 2015.

Despite worries over their security that is not guaranteed, exiled civil society organisations say they will send representatives to the upcoming consultation sessions with Benjamin Mkapa, the inter-Burundian dialogue Facilitator.