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A call for dialogue in Burundi

May 25, 2015

Along with the EU and UN, African countries have urged Burundian factions to keep up dialogue. Opposition groups have vowed to boycott talks with the government after a dissident leader was shot dead on Saturday.

Bujumbura, Burundi, Protest
Image: Reuters/J. P. Harerimana

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the killing of Union for Peace and Develoment head Zedi Feruzi, who opposed Pierre Nkurunziza's bid for a third term. The president's decision to seek five more years has triggered the small African country's largest protests since a civil war between members of two ethnic groups ended in 2005. The UN and regional states have sponsored dialogue between rival sides since May 5 to end the standoff, in which at least 20 people have died, 431 have been wounded, and at least 100,000 have fled to neighboring states.

Ban called on parties "not to be deterred by those who, through violence, seek to prevent the creation of an environment conducive to peaceful, credible and inclusive elections in Burundi."

Feruzi was killed outside his house in Bujumbura Saturday in a drive-by shooting by unknown gunmen. One of his bodyguards was also killed in the attack. On Sunday, thousands of people attended Feruzi's funeral and members of various dissident factions boycotted talks with the government.

"The climate is not conducive for talks," Bernard Ndayisegna, a leader of the opposition National Forces of Liberation party, said on Sunday.

Witnesses claim the assailants had worn the presidential guard uniforms. However, the presidency denies any involvement in the attack.

The European Union, the biggest donor to Burundi, has urged "all parties to engage in good faith" in talks.

Opponents say Nkurunziza's re-election bid violates a two-term limit in the constitution and a peace deal that ended civil conflict in 2005. The president, who has called protests an "insurrection," has cited a recent a constitutional court ruling that found that his first term, when parliament appointed him, did not count. After fleeing the country, a top judge has said the court was coerced.

Nkurunziza's decision late last month set off an ultimately unsuccessful coup. Nevertheless, he has shown no signs of backing down from his bid. The election is scheduled to happen on June 26, three weeks after delayed regional and parliamentary polls.

mkg/rc (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)