The latest efforts to end Burundi’s dragging political crisis ran into trouble on Friday as the opposition accused Benjamin Mkapa, the mediator and former Tanzanian president, of siding with government by accepting it as legitimate.
Mkapa who had arrived back in Burundi on Wednesday, has failed to get peace talks off the ground since he was appointed in March by the East African heads of states to mediate the crisis.
Mkapa urged the opposition to look ahead to the 2020 elections and stop focusing on the events of 2015.
“I am in no position to determine the legitimacy of the government of Burundi. Elections were held, court cases were raised … and they all said this is a legitimate process which has come to a legitimate conclusion,” he said.
“Ambassadors come here, they present credentials to President Nkurunziza. The Security Council resolutions recognise him as the president of this country, so what is this foolishness? We’re wasting a lot of time talking about an event that is all over.”
The crisis in Burundi erupted when President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to run for a third term in office in April 2015, and has left 500 people dead.
A September report by UN rights experts recounted spine-chilling cases of torture and horrific sexual violence, mass arrests and disappearances and warned that “the crime of genocide also looms large.”
Burundi has a long history of violence between its Hutu and Tutsi communities, which led to a 12-year civil war that ended in 2006.
Bujumbura has reacted to the mounting criticism by cutting ties with the UN’s main human rights body and pulling out of the International Criminal Court (ICC), while slamming a “foreign plot” to destabilise the country.