Chairman of the East African Council of Ministers Harrison Mwakyembe (left) confers with council member Shem Bageine of Uganda (second left), Tanzania’s Deputy Minister for East Africa Cooperation Abdallah Sadalla (second right) and East African Community Secretary-General Richard Sezibera during a meeting on the Burundi crisis yesterday. PHOTO
Arusha. The Burundi elections may not be postponed as directed by the emergency East African Community Heads of State held in Dar es Salaam last week.
Instead, the EAC will dispatch an observer mission to the parliamentary and presidential elections slated for May 26 and June 26, respectively, as initially planned, according to a senior Tanzanian government official.
The change of heart apparently follows what has been perceived as a stabilizing of situation in Burundi, where renegade soldiers attempted to oust President Pierre Nkurunziza last Wednesday after weeks of violent clashes between police and protesters.
“There is no way the EAC can avoid supporting the government of Pierre Nkurunziza for now. The situation has somehow stabilized unlike before the attempted coup,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the matter.
The official, who spoke on the sidelines of an emergency meeting of member states’ East African cooperation ministers at the EAC headquarters, said the partner states were relieved that peace was returning to Burundi in the wake of violence that left about 20 people dead. However, he did not say whether the EAC had accepted President Nkurunziza’s controversial bid for a third term, which sparked the crisis.
It was resolved during last week’s summit that Burundi was not ready for free and fair elections given the fluid situation in Burundi following weeks of violent demonstrations.
The leaders from Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda called upon the authorities in Bujumbura to postpone the elections for a period not beyond the mandate of the current government of President Nkurunziza.
Summit chairman President Jakaya Kikwete hosted the meeting at State House, Dar es Salaam, and other leaders in attendance were presidents Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya.
President Nkurunziza, was in Dar es Salaam, but did not attend the meeting following reports of an attempted coup against him.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr Bernard Membe, told reporters in Dar es Salaam at the weekend that the security situation in Burundi was too fragile for elections to be held.
He indicated that the EAC was about to propose that the eagerly-awaited elections be postponed to July this year “when the dust would have settled”, but not after August when Mr Nkurunziza’s term will come to an end.
Yesterday’s emergency meeting in Arusha, chaired by East Africa Cooperation minister Harrison Mwakyembe, discussed the Burundi crisis within the context of last Friday’s meeting of attorneys general from the five partner states.