Ban Ki-moon urges Burundi leaders to settle differences
BUJUMBURA (AFP) – 06-10-2010, UN chief Ban Ki-moon Wednesday called on Burundi's political leaders to "sort out their differences" so that elections can be open to all groups."I applaud everything you have done for the success of the (May 24 local) elections and really encourage you to sort out your differences ... through the established institutional channels," the UN secretary general said."But I insist on the fact that this process needs to be open to all and that you have to accept the result," he said during a visit of a few hours in Bujumbura. Ban addressed Burundian parliamentarians, among them several opposition leaders such as Agathon Rwasa, the leader of the former rebellion, the National Liberation Forces (FNL).Burundi's opposition parties are calling for the annulment of the May 24 local elections, which the ruling party won by a wide margin. They are also boycotting the June 28 presidential poll."Burundians are impatient to get the dividends of peace; to achieve that they need to be ready to make sacrifices and to reach compromises. Let's work together to get those dividends and make sure we keep them," Ban urged. On his arrival at Bujumbura airport, where he was greeted by Vice President Yves Sahinguvu, Ban said Burundi was "going through a crucial phase".
"I congratulate all Burundians on their success in consolidating peace," he said."You have demonstrated you are capable of overcoming disruptions and other difficulties and the results are evident ... the fact that elections are being held is an example among others," Ban continued.A heavy military and police presence was visible in the capital and along the road leading to the airport. Two army helicopters circled overhead.
Opposition leaders had said it was "not the right time" for Ban's visit, given that the international community is backing the disputed results of the poll.The opposition coalition called for a demonstration in Bujumbura to coincide with Ban's visit and to protest "the deterioration of the socio-political climate".
Bujumbura's mayor Edouard Giswaswa said Tuesday he had banned the demonstration. The opposition groups had threatened to defy the ban, but by early afternoon Wednesday there was no sign of it in the capital.Opposition leaders did try to organise a march in a town south of Bujumbura but were stopped and dispersed by police, an opposition supporter who was part of the group told AFP. Ban was to meet with President Pierre Nkurunziza, the electoral commission, heads of political parties and civil society, according to the foreign ministry.
Ban was also to focus on Burundi's participation in the African Union's peacekeeping force in Somalia.The electoral commission has confirmed that only Nkurunziza is a candidate for the presidential election, after all his six rivals pulled out, contending that fraud will mar the poll in the same way as they say it did the local elections. The disputed May 24 elections were the first step in a four-month electoral marathon crucial to Burundi, an impoverished country that has struggled to emerge from years of unrest.