Government and opposition representatives from Burundi held their first day of talks in Uganda in a bid to restart negotiations called to end months of violence, which has stoked fears of a return to civil war.
The talks on Burundi, attended by government and opposition representatives, civil society groups and UN officials, were held at the presidential residence in Entebbe, just outside the Ugandan capital Kampala. They were chaired by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who is acting as regional mediator in the conflict.
"I really appeal to you, the two sides, to sit down and have a political solution so that you save the people from the suffering," Museveni said.
However, Monday's meeting was expected to only lay the groundwork for longer negotiations next month in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha.
The 54-member African Union (AU) has said it will send in a 5,000-strong force to halt the violence, despite Burundi's government calling the proposed peacekeeping mission an "invasion force."
Burundi's Foreign Minister Alain-Aime Nyamitwe is leading the government delegation at the talks.
Controversial Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza wasn't present at the opening the ceremony.
The opposition delegates include members of CNARED, a coalition that presents itself as upholding the Arusha peace agreement that ended more than a decade of civil war in 2006, and which its says Nkurunziza has undermined.
"CNARED requires above all an immediate end to the massacres, because we cannot negotiate while people are about to be killed," CNARED spokesman Pancrace Cimpaye said. He also called for the "immediate deployment" of the proposed AU force.
Hundreds of people have been killed in Burundi since April 2015, when opponents of a re-election bid by Nkurunziza took to the streets in protest. Nkurinziza secured a third term in an election in July which was boycotted by the opposition, who claimed the extra term was unconstitutional.
The unrest has since devolved into recurring armed attacks, with gunfire ringing out in the capital Bujumbura by night and corpses appearing on the streets almost every day.
Refusing to talk to CNARED
Leading civil society members, including exiled human rights activist Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa and a number of religious leaders, are also taking part in the latest negotiations in Uganda.
Burundi's government has so far refused to hold direct talks with CNARED, calling it a "terrorist organization" and accusing it of being behind a failed coup in May 2015 as well as ongoing attacks on security forces.
Protests against President Nkurunziza erupted after he announced his bid for a controversial third term in April 2015
The violence in Burundi, which has also included street battles and even failed mortar bombings on the presidential palace, echoes attacks carried out during the 1993-2006 civil war.
Alex Gitta, a DW correspondent in Uganda, said both sides sounded pessimistic about the success of the dialogue and were setting conditions before agreeing to negotiate.
Andrew Mwenda, a political commentator in Kampala, said "I think that these talks are going to lead nowhere. The Burundian government is not interested in talking to the rebels."
AU Commission chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said last week she welcomed "the resumption of the inter-Burundian dialogue in Entebbe" and had written to Nkurunziza pleading for "the early deployment" of peacekeepers.