Burundi rivals hold talks ahead of key presidential polls
Iran Press TV
Sat Jul 18, 2015 4:18PM
The Burundian government and opposition groups have opened a new round of crisis talks as part of a last-ditch effort to resolve a major political turmoil over a controversial presidential bid for a third consecutive term in office.
A source close to the talks said on Saturday that negotiations between the Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) party, led by President Pierre Nkurunziza, and opposition groups were currently focused on discussing 'security in the country and the return of refugees.'
In recent months, at least 100 people have been killed and more than 150,000 people have fled Burundi due to the growing insecurity and a fierce government crackdown on demonstrations.
The unnamed source said that the two rival sides also plan to discuss the electoral calendar, with the opposition groups demanding that the results of last month's parliamentary elections be nullified and the upcoming presidential election be postponed.
UN observers say the recently held parliamentary elections in Burundi were not 'free or credible.' The elections on June 29 went ahead in the African country despite international outcry.
The key presidential election is due to take place in the impoverished central African nation on Tuesday.
The opposition has until now stood by its plans to boycott the presidential polls, leaving only the ruling CNDD-FDD and its affiliated parties to compete for the presidency. The opposition also argues that weeks of violent crackdown on protesters by security forces means free and fair elections are impossible.
The administration of President Nkurunziza, however, has so far refused any further delay in the presidential election.
In one of his final campaign rallies on Friday, the president promised the country 'five more years of peace' if he is re-elected.
'If you choose the CNDD-FDD, you are sure of five more years of peace,' the president told a rally of at least 1,500 people.
The latest talks come days after first round of crisis talks between the government and opposition groups ended inconclusively, with the Ugandan president, who mediated the negotiations, leaving the capital, Bujumbura.
Ahead of his departure, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni Museveni told a press briefing in Bujumbura that rival groups in Burundi have promised to continue talks until they reach a final agreement.
The crisis in Burundi began in late April, when Nkurunziza announced his decision to run for a controversial third consecutive term in office. The bid has sparked months of turmoil and an attempted coup in mid-May.
Political opponents say the decision is unconstitutional and violates the 2000 Arusha Accord, which provided a framework to end the civil war in the landlocked country.
International organizations and rights groups have expressed serious concern that the ongoing crisis could plunge the country back into civil war.
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