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MPs accuse East African leaders of doing little to help end Burundi crisis

Wednesday December 16 2015

A man begs for help from the military as he

A man begs for help from the military as he stands in a drain where he was hiding to escape from a lynch mob in Bujumbura, Burundi, on May 7, 2015. A caucus of Kenyan MPs, known as Friends of Burundi, has accused leaders from East Africa of doing little to help end the bloodshed in Burundi. AFP PHOTO | AYMERIC VINCENOT 

ANITA CHEPKOECH
By ANITA CHEPKOECH
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A group of Kenyan MPs have accused East African leaders of doing little to help end the ongoing crisis in Burundi that has resulted in bloodshed and deaths.

The MPs, who have formed a caucus that seeks to mobilise support for mediating peace in Burundi, have accused the East African presidents of sitting on the fence while the neighbouring country burns.

The caucus, chaired by Budalang'i MP Ababu Namwamba and called Friends of Burundi, is seeking to mobilise support from other African and international states to broker peace in the ongoing conflict in Burundi.

So far, the caucus has seven members from across the political divide

For the past two weeks, there has been political unrest in the country that has led to the killing of over 100 Burundians.

The unrest started when President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to vie for a controversial third term despite demands that he step down.

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The East African Community (EAC), regional governments, the African Union, the European Union and the United Nations have so far failed to intervene in the matter.

BRING POLITICAL ATTENTION

Mr Namwamba said their objective is to help focus political attention on the Burundi situation and rescue it from imminent civil war.

He said he initiated the group after consultations with Kenya’s ambassador to Burundi, Mr Ken Vitisia, after their two-week visit to Burundi’s capital Bujumbura and Kigali in neighbouring Rwanda.

“Everyone is afraid to take a firm position and offer a solution, however painful it might be. No one is even telling the truth about that situation in the country. But Friends of Burundi is one solid step into the matter,” said Mr Namwamba.

He said the geo-political power dynamics of leaders seeking to extend their terms is clearly at play and that could be one reason the closest friends of Burundi, including Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, feel they lack the moral authority to ask President Nkurunziza to go slow on extending his rule.

WARNED PRESIDENTS

“But we want to tell all the five regional presidents who are sitting and watching Burundi slide into the abyss without lifting a finger that history will judge them all very harshly,” said Mr Namwamba.

Other members of the group are Mr Sakwa Bunyasi (Nambale), David Ochieng (Ugenya), Jessica Mbalu (Kibwezi), Erick Keter (Belgut), Victor Munyaka (Machakos Town) , Millie Odhiambo (Mbita) and Richard Onyonka (Kitutu Chache).

Mr Namwamba said the group would visit Bujumbura at the beginning of 2016 on a fact-finding mission and to engage with parties in the conflict so as to establish a basis for dialogue and “tell the world the truth about the beautiful country”.

After the trip, the group plans to visit all regional capitals in a bid to extend membership to other select MPs from all parliaments in the EAC bloc and also engage presidents from each state.