Burundi’s government said it would attend regional talks this weekend aimed at ending a year-long cycle of violence that has claimed about 450 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.
Mediated by the East African Community (EAC), the regional bloc of which Burundi is a member, the talks have been repeatedly postponed since a first meeting in December, with the government refusing to share a table with what it considers insurgent groups.
Burundi’s political crisis broke out in April 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would seek a third term, a move opponents said violated the constitution.
After putting down an attempted coup in May led by generals opposed to his continued rule, he was re-elected in July, supported by a favourable court ruling.
Spokesman Willy Nyamitwe said that restriction still applied, but added: “We have received an invitation and we will go.”
Violence has steadily escalated since, killings between Nkurunziza’s security forces and rebels who took up arms against his government.
The next phase of talks is due to take place on Saturday in Arusha in neighbouring Tanzania, under the mediation of that country’s former president Benjamin Mkapa.
One opposition party, the CNDD, told Reuters it would attend, while others had yet to confirm their presence. The government recognises the CNDD as a legitimate interlocutor.
Burundian police estimate more than 450 people have been killed since the unrest began while about a quarter of million have fled to neighbouring states.
At least three anti-Nkurunziza armed rebel groups have emerged and the government has accused neighbouring Rwanda of backing some of them. Rwanda denies the accusations.