UN chief brokers all-party talks in Burundi

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (right) flanked by Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza speaks to the media on February 23, 2016 in Bujumbura. PHOTO | AFP 

Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza and the opposition agreed Tuesday to hold talks to end a 10-month-old political crisis, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday.

After meeting with the president as well as government and opposition politicians, Mr Ban said that all sides had agreed to "inclusive dialogue" and that the president "confirmed, that he would engage in political dialogue."

"Burundi's political leaders must be ready to summon the courage and the confidence that will make a credible political process possible," Mr Ban said.

The UN boss met with both government and opposition politicians on Monday night before holding talks with President Nkurunziza on Tuesday morning.

It remains unclear which of his opponents the president will be willing to negotiate with as some are in exile, some jailed and some have taken up arms.

"This dialogue concerns all Burundians, except those engaged in acts of destabilisation," President Nkurunziza said Tuesday, hours after overnight grenade attacks in several city neighbourhoods left a dozen injured, according to police.

African delegation

Burundi's crisis was triggered by the head of state's controversial decision in April last year to run for a third term which he went on to win in a July election.

Over 400 people have been killed, more than 240,000 have left the country and violent attacks have become a daily routine in the months since.

Mr Ban's visit is aimed at reviving stalled efforts to end the crisis and comes after the Burundi government appeared to soften its position towards opponents by agreeing to receive a delegation of African heads of state, expected later this week.

It also cancelled international arrest warrants against several exiled opposition leaders.

President Nkurunziza said he had appealed to Mr Ban to help end Rwandan support for Burundian rebels alleged by Burundian authorities and UN investigators to be planning to attack the country.

"We also discussed regional problems and we explained how Rwanda is trying to destabilise us," President Nkurunziza said. "We told (Ban) that we had evidence and we asked for UN intervention to push for Rwanda to give it up, so that Burundians and Rwandans can live in harmony as in the past."

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