The five African leaders include four presidents namely South Africa’ Jacob Zuma, Mauritania’s Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, Senegal’s Macky Sall and Gabon’s Ali Bongo Ondimba and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.
South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana Mashabane, who is part of the South African delegation, said the AU high-level panel came to support Burundi’s peace process.
“Every of the five regions is represented here. So we are all here just to support the peace process that is going on in this country. Since our arrival yesterday Wednesday), we see that indeed they made progress and that there is willingness to move on with the peace process,” said Mashabane.
According to her, the panel has brought a “peace” message.
“There will be no development without peace and security, and there will be no peace and security if there is no development. But in this instance here (in Burundi), if that is moving on post-elections, what do Burundian people want? Burundian actors will be engaged by the high-level panel if they need peace,” said Mashabane.
Burundian External Relations and International Cooperation Minister Alain Aime Nyamitwe reiterated the government’s refusal to negotiate with non-peaceful actors.
“We still have a few issues with a number of actors who have involved themselves into activities that are completely in contradiction with UN Security Council Resolution 2248 which calls for dialogue between the government and peaceful stakeholders,” said Nyamitwe.
According to him, people who have tried to overthrow the government or who have formed rebel groups to overthrow the government “will not have a platform” in the inter-Burundian dialogue.
During the visit, the AU high-level panel is to meet various stakeholders including political actors, the civil society and religious groups.
The panel is also due to meet Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza later on Thursday evening.
In the morning the five African leaders separately laid wreaths of flowers on the tombs of two Burundian heroes – the Independence Hero Prince Louis Rwagasore and Democracy Hero Melchior Ndadaye.
The summit of AU heads of state held in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia on Jan. 30-31 decided the sending of a high-level panel to assess Burundi’s crisis and advise on the necessity of the deployment of an African Prevention and Protection Mission (MAPROBU).
On Dec. 17, 2015, the African Union Peace and Security Council issued a resolution on the deployment into Burundi of 5,000 AU troops to prevent genocide or massive killings.
However, the Burundian government is opposed to the deployment of foreign troops, arguing that Burundi is “safe” and that “no genocide” will take place in Burundi.
Burundi is facing a political crisis that broke out in April 2015 following the announcement by Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza that he would be seeking a third term.
His candidature, which was opposed by the opposition and civil society groups, resulted into a wave of protests, violence and even a failed coup on May 13, 2015.
Over 400 people are reported to have been killed since then.