Burundi's president has vowed not to seek a fourth term if he wins a controversial election in June. Police have arrested an opposition leader.
A spokesman said Pierre Nkurunziza told foreign ministers from the three other East African Community (EAC) nations that he would not run again if he were to win a third term. In April, the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy announced a third candidacy for Nkurunziza, sparking protests.
"He told them that if re-elected he would not seek another term," spokesman Gervais Abayeho said on Wednesday, after the president met the foreign ministers of Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania to discuss Burundi's political standoff.
Burundi's constitution limits presidents to two terms. The country's top court has ruled that Nkurunziza's first term did not count because lawmakers had picked him, rather than the public. However, after fleeing to Rwanda, the vice president of the court said the government had pressured judges.
In the weeks that have followed, the government has cracked down on independent media and police have fired live rounds at demonstrators, leaving at least a dozen people dead and causing tens of thousands to flee to Tanzania, Congo and, mainly, Rwanda. UN refugee agency head Antonio Guterres said the exodus had left him "extremely worried."
'Leading the insurrection'
On Wednesday, police arrested opposition leader Audifax Ndabitoreye, who also holds Dutch nationality, after he joined the meeting at a hotel in the capital, Bujumbura. Officers in plainclothes waited for him outside the hotel. At first, he resisted arrest, but later gave himself up to the police.
Police told radio stations that officers had arrested Ndabitoreye for "leading the insurrection."
On May 13, Tanzania will host an emergency summit to solve the crisis sparked by Nkurunziza's bid to seek a third term in office, Foreign Minister Bernard Membe said on Wednesday. The minister made the announcement during a visit by his counterparts from Kenya and Rwanda to Bujumbura.
"Now that the constitutional court has issued a ruling, we came to get reassurance that violence is no longer tolerated, and assurance that the elections will be free, peaceful and fair," Membe said.
Membe called the foreign ministers' visit to Burundi a fact-finding mission to prepare for the summit in Tanzania's capital, Dar es Salaam. He said Nkurunziza had agreed to attend.
Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader from the Hutu majority, took power in 2005. A 13-year civil war between Tutsis and Hutus ended only in 2006.
mkg/bw (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)