Great Lakes Region

Will Burundi host 20th COMESA summit in June?

Ambiguity reigns around the 20th summit of COMESA organization. While we can read on the official website of COMESA that the 20th summit is to be held in Lusaka, Zambia in July 2018 , the spokesperson for the government says Burundi has not yet got any official document attesting that Burundi won’t host the summit as agreed.

COMESA Headquarters

COMESA Headquarters

Philippe Nzobonariba, secretary of and spokesperson for the government says relocating or postponing the summit is the presidents’ decision. “It’s not simply the staff’s decision to relocate the summit but it is the presidents’ decision,” he says adding that the government has not yet received any notification that says the summit will not take place in Burundi.

Nzobonariba says the preparations of the summit are going on and even some materials that were missing are being imported. “A technical committee came here and made a list of things that are needed. The organization committee in Burundi is arranging everything as agreed”.

This is confirmed by Zéphyrin Maniratunga, Chief of Protocol to the President of the Republic and Chairman of the National Committee in charge of official celebrations. “I have not yet received any order to suspend the organization activities. I assume that Burundi will host the summit,” he says.
The 20th summit was scheduled for October 2017 in Burundi. There was a vain attempt to relocate it to Lusaka, Zambia stating that Burundi did not have the accommodation and logistic capacity to host the COMESA Summit.

After months of diplomatic negotiations between Bujumbura and Lusaka, COMESA Secretariat finally confirmed in December 2017, that Burundi has all the accommodation and logistical capacity to host the 20th COMESA Summit.

Sindiso N’gwenya, the General Secretary of COMESA said the summit was to take place in Burundi in April during his visit in January 2018.

After agreement of all stakeholders, the Summit to be held from 9th to 19th April 2018 in Burundi was pushed back to 1st up to 10th June 2018 as the April dates would coincide with the Commonwealth Summit in the UK preventing many heads of states from attending the summit in Burundi.

The common  Market for Eastern and Southern Africa- COMESA is a regional organization that counts 19 African member states. The chairing country is elected on a rotational basis and it was decided in the previous summit held in 2016 in Madagascar that Burundi was the next to chair the following summit in 2017.