President Museveni has received and held talks with a team of the Burundi peace facilitators led by the former Tanzanian President, look Mr Benjamin Mkapa.
The facilitating team and President Museveni exchanged views and agreed to chart the way forward to ensure sustainable peace in Burundi, one of the members of the East African Community.
The meeting held at State House Nakasero on Sunday came against the backdrop of the escalating refugee crisis in the region.
The United Nations refugee agency recently increased its funding appeal by $36 million to support Burundians fleeing their homes in what could become the third-largest refugee crisis in Africa.
“Arriving refugees continue to cite human rights abuses, fear of persecution and sexual and gender-based violence as reasons for fleeing,” Babar Baloch, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters in Geneva.
The Burundi civil society says the crackdown on any person or group opposed to the third mandate began at the outset of the peaceful protests organized in April 2015 and has so far spread, causing the deaths of thousands of people, hundreds of enforced disappearances, torture, extrajudicial executions, violence against women and thousands of illegal imprisonments, while hundreds of thousands of Burundians have been forced into exile.
During the State House meeting, President Museveni, who is the mediator of the Burundi peace process and also current Chairman of the East African Community, received a brief from his guests concerning the progress so far recorded in the Burundi peace efforts.
“East Africa should take a stand in this matter. The Burundi constitution must be respected by all parties in the conflict. The people of Burundi need peace and security, which are a prerequisite to the economic growth of the East African nation,” he said.
ChimpReports understands that Burundi Civil Society members led by Patrick Nduwimana recently wrote to President Museveni, saying while several attempts of a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Burundi have been initiated for almost two years, it was regrettable that the “process has never involved independent civil society taking into account the role played in the struggle for constitutional legality.”
The civil society organizations also urged the Facilitator and the Mediator in person to address the situation and remove all ambiguities and guarantee the effective inclusiveness and security of the participants in the dialogue session dedicated to civil society in exile in Entebbe as well as the future sessions.
While meeting Mkapa, President Museveni stressed that “there should be no pre-conditions from any of the groups in the Burundi peace process”, adding that the “warring groups must handle the situation objectively.”
He called on them to concentrate on the core issues affecting Burundi.
The facilitator of the Burundi peace talks, Mr. Benjamin Mkapa said there was need for his facilitating team to “bring the Burundi parties together” noting that there was need for the groups to “respect each other.”
Since April 2015, some 410,000 refugees and asylum-seekers have been forced to flee their homes.
With no sign of improvement of the political situation, the total refugee population is expected to grow to over half a million by the end of this year.
Currently, Tanzania is hosting the majority of Burundian refugees with some 249,000 already accommodated in three overcrowded camps. Rwanda hosts some 84,000 refugees with another 45,000 in Uganda and some 41,000 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Smaller numbers of Burundian refugees have also fled to Kenya and into Southern African countries such as Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi and South Africa.