Koenders speaks with Kikwete about urgent crisis management in Burundi

In a meeting today at the Catshuis with President Kikwete of Tanzania, foreign minister Bert Koenders expressed his concern about the crisis in Burundi. ‘I am deeply concerned about the explosive situation in Burundi. As summit chair of the East African Community, Mr Kikwete is playing an important role in mediating the crisis in that country. With this in mind, I was glad to have the chance to speak with him,’ said Mr Koenders, who also took the opportunity to express his appreciation for President Kikwete’s interceding role.

‘It’s important for the Burundian government and the opposition to find some common ground. A safe and open climate needs to be created to ensure that the upcoming election run smoothly,’ said Mr Koenders. ‘The Burundian people have the right to a fair and peaceful election. A further rise in tensions could be very dangerous.’

Mr Koenders and Mr Kikwete see the recent EAC summit as a major step forward. This meeting brought together all the countries of East Africa to discuss the problems in Burundi. ‘A number of key decisions were take at the summit. I welcome the decision to postpone the election for at least a month and a half and to disarm the youth groups,’ said the minister. ‘At the same time I have my doubts as to whether the measures are enough to reduce tensions in the country. The main thing now is for the recommendations to be implemented with all speed and to carefully monitor whether all parties are complying with the agreements.’

Mr Koenders also expressed his disappointment with the Burundian opposition’s decision to withdraw its confidence in UN mediator Said Djinnit. ‘This is a setback. The UN dialogue is the only peaceful way out of the crisis. The Security Council and all of Burundi’s international partners have complete confidence in Mr Djinnit. It is vital that he be allowed to continue his work.’