Uganda's Museveni leaves Burundi after mediation to deal with the 'wrong ideas'

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni (L) and Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza (R) in Bujumbura, 14 July 2015.
Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni (L) and Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza (R) in Bujumbura, 14 July 2015. Sonia Rolley

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni left Burundi on Wednesday without a deal following mediation efforts to try and solve the country’s political crisis. A bid by Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza to stand for a third term in office has sparked months of protests, a crackdown by security forces and a coup attempt.


“The ruling party, opposition and civil society are committed to intensive negotiations,” Museveni told reporters as he left Bujumbura.

The veteran Ugandan leader’s mediation had focused on the creation of a “government of national unity”, an idea initially proposed by the East African Community regional bloc in an emergency meeting in Dar Es Salaam on 6 July. This states that the winner of presidential polls should form a government involving those who participated in elections and those who did not.

The proposal has already been rejected by Burundi’s political opposition. Charles Nditije, who represents an opposition faction of the Uprona party, told the AFP news agency that a power-sharing arrangement “cannot be based on legislative elections they have already opposed”.

Burundi’s elections were originally scheduled for 15 July, but have been postponed until 21 July. The EAC had been pushing for a delay until 30 July.

Ugandan Defence Minister Crispus Kiyonga will take over mediation efforts following Museveni's departure.

Museveni himself has been in power since 1986 and is going for re-election next year. In neighbouring Rwanda, President Paul Kagame has been given the green-light by parliament for a third term.

Protesters against Nkurunziza say a third term is against Burundi’s constitution and the Arusha Agreement peace deal that ended the country’s civil war.

However, the country's constitutional court has ruled that if he wins the polls it would not be his third term and he can therefore stand in the election.

About 100 people have been killed in protests over the past two months. Nearly 144,000 refugees have fled to neighbouring countries since the beginning of April, according to the UN.

Yoweri Museveni on Burundi’s sectarianism and the importance of governance

“The conflicts in Africa and in many parts of the world are normally due to wrong ideas in people’s heads. If you get a wrong idea in your head, that wrong idea will lead you to wrong actions and wrong actions will produce problems. The first wrong idea was sectarianism. Burundi had started well, you had good leaders, Prince Louis Rwagasore and his team, and they managed to unite the people of Burundi, elections. So if I have a wrong idea, which says we Hutus, we Tutsis - those ideas, are first and foremost, the enemies of the very people you’re talking about because you are against their prosperity. Now, the other dangerous idea which I seem to detect in your situation is thinking that government, controlling government, is the most important thing. Countries are strong because of the private sector. The government is there to facilitate. But when the political class behaves in such a manner - always conflict, conflict, conflict, conflict – Burundi will never develop. A just war is a war which has got justification and has no other way of being resolved.”

Analysis: National unity government not a feasible solution - Benjamin Chemouni, Burundi researcher, London School of Economics and Political Science

“A government of national unity is a bit hard to imagine now given the kind of deep distrust that has been created by the situation. We have to remember that one head of a political [opposition] party, the UPD, has been killed. And given the kind of advantage Nkurunziza has at the moment – tight control of the police, the army and of the countryside – its hard to see why he would accept that. Even if he would formally accept it, I think informally the [ruling] CNDD-FDD would still be the main player. So, I’m not sure it’s a feasible solution to be honest. I think what Museveni wants, I think as any leader of the region, is stability. Because if things really continue to go wrong we’re going to see more and more refugees, there’s also already a humanitarian crisis in Tanzania, where you have an outbreak of cholera. So I think for them, the priority is stability. I think at the moment its clear that Nkurunziza is in a strong position, so I think by offering this it seems that he [Museveni] wants Nkurunziza to stay and basically stabilise the country.”

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