East Africa: Mkapa Praised Over Part in Burundi Peace Talks

The United Kingdom (UK) Special Envoy to the African Great Lakes, Danae Dholakia, has toasted the facilitator for the Burundi Dialogue, Mr Benjamin Mkapa, for a successful four-day meeting in Arusha on the ongoing Burundi political impasse.

"I strongly welcome the resumption of the internationally mediated Burundi Dialogue in Arusha from May 21 to 24 facilitated by former Tanzanian President Mkapa. "I congratulate Mr Mkapa for his clear and even-handed approach, which has provided a strong foundation on which to build," the UK envoy said in a statement.

Mr Mkapa said on Tuesday that he had completed the first round of the peace talks, saying he would convene another meeting next month, allowing consultation to take place amongst parties that failed to attend the Arusha sessions.

The former president said he was taking the early negotiations to the chief mediator for Burundi conflicts, the Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni to seek his advice regarding the way forward.

However, there were a few of those who received the invitations but declined to come. During these four days, according to the facilitator, there were no acrimonious interventions as all parties showed a high degree of civility, patriotism and a great desire to own the dialogue.

Yesterday, Ms Dholakia remarked: "As the president noted in his closing comments, there were some key opposition and civil society representatives who were, for one reason or another, not able to attend.

"I commend his initiative to hold a further consultative event with opposition and civil society voices unable to come to Arusha and his commitment to doing this in the next two weeks. The diplomat supported Mr Mkapa's desire in urging all sides to participate fully in this process, in the spirit of negotiation and compromise.

For the sake of the people of Burundi, the envoy said swift progress was essential. "I strongly welcome his desire to hold the next full dialogue session in the week commencing June 16," she noted. Ms Dholakia urged that no party should seek to block or slow down this momentum.

In particular, he strongly supported Mr Mkapa's call for everyone to give this dialogue a chance to succeed by ceasing all armed and political violence. She was optimistic that all parties can reach an agreement which provides the basis for sustainable peace and security in Burundi, built on the strong foundations of the Arusha Agreement.

"The UK stands ready to support the attainment of that goal," said the ambassador.

Source: Tanzania Daily News.