Hundreds of Burundians lined up for the vote in which they are merely asked to decide yes or no. AFP/STR
Hundreds of Burundians lined up for the vote in which they are merely asked to decide yes or no. AFP/STR

The UN envoy for Burundi said Tuesday that dialogue remains the only viable option for resolving the political crisis in Burundi and for holding peaceful elections in 2020.

Michel Kafando, the UN secretary-general’s special envoy for Burundi, briefed the Security Council on the recent developments in Burundi 16 months before the country’s planned elections. In August 2018, a roadmap to Burundi’s 2020 elections was signed by most political parties in Burundi, where they agreed to peacefully participate in the polls.

Kafando particularly pointed to Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza’s stated intention not to seek reelection and the government’s recognition of the opposition party National Congress for Freedom, saying these moves are “a step in the right direction and can contribute to opening the political space” of the country.

Meanwhile, the special envoy noted that the Burundi opposition parties had appealed for the African Union and the United Nations to take charge of the inter-Burundi dialogue. Currently, the dialogue is an East African Community-led process with Yoweri Museveni, president of Uganda, as its mediator and Benjamin Mkapa, former Tanzanian president, as its facilitator. On the humanitarian front, Kafando said the situation has improved since 2017, except in the eastern and northeastern border provinces, but about 1.5 million people still face food insecurity because of persistent socioeconomic difficulties.

The UN agency for refugees, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), is appealing for 296 million U.S. dollars to help refugees living in camps in Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he added.

As of December 31, 2018, the United Nations estimated that 140,000 people were displaced and 347,000 Burundians were refugees in neighboring countries. Burundi plunged into a crisis in April 2015 when Nkurunziza decided to run his controversial third term bid, which he won in July 2015. His candidature, which was opposed by the opposition and civil society groups, resulted in a wave of protests, violence and even a failed coup in May 2015. Launched in December 2015, the inter-Burundi dialogue is aimed at finding a solution to the political crisis in Burundi.

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