South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma is expected to lead a 5-member African Union delegation of Heads of State to Burundi on Thursday.
The high level delegation includes President Ould Abdel Aziz of Mauritania, President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon, Senegal’s president Macky Sall and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.
The team is expected to convince the Burundian president, Pierre Nkurunziza to accept a 5,000 peacekeeping force from the continental body to maintain order in his country as well as open up for talks.
The visit by the delegation is at the behest of the new Chairperson of the African Union Idriss Déby Itno, who is also the Republic of Chad.
Zuma will be supported by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.
But even before the AU delegation makes its way to Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza has told the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, who is visiting the country that he is ready for talks with the opposition.
“We have asked for their (U.N.) assistance when it comes to initiating talks to reconcile Burundians. Everyone knows that Burundians always come together when it comes to talks. We have shown our commitment with the announcement to free 2,000 prisoners, excluding those accused of disturbing the peace” he said.
His readiness to hold talks has being welcomed by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon who said political actors from both the government and opposition have agreed to “discuss the future of the country”.
“I was very encouraged that the political leaders – whether they are sitting in government ruling party or opposition – they promised that they will engage in inclusive dialogue. This is what president Nkurunziza also confirmed that he will be engaging in inclusive dialogue” Mr. Ban said.
The Burundian leader however wants more from the UN than just initiating talks with the opposition. He also wants the global body to send a word of caution to its neighbour, Rwanda.
“We spoke about other issues facing the region, especially Rwanda, which is a country that has been causing us problems. We have asked for their (U.N.) support to help us and regarding Rwanda, to stop provoking us, so we can go back to having good neighbourly relations like we used to.”
More than 400 people have died since April last year when President Nkurunziza announced his intension to run for a third term in office.