UN envoy quits role as mediator in Burundi crisis

Bujumbura, June 12 (IANS) The United Nations (UN) envoy Said Djinnit has quit his role as mediator in Burundi crisis, following requests from the opposition which accused him of being “biased”.

“He (Said Djinnit) is stepping down from his role as a facilitator but remains engaged with respect to Burundi as part of his role of UN special envoy to the Great Lakes region,” Vladimir Monteiro, spokesperson for the UN Electoral Observation Mission told Xinhua on Thursday.

The opposition accused Djinnit of being siding with the government in talks between the two sides over the crisis sparked by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s third-term bid — allegations that the UN envoy rejected.

“Djinnit is not taking any advice from the opposition. His facilitation was praised by the UN secretary general, the African Union, the European Union, the East African Community and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region,” said Monteiro.

The talks, which started on May 5, were supposed to resume this week with two major issues — the president’s re-election bid and an end to protests — on the agenda, but now the opposition has demanded a new UN mediator.

The UN and other regional organisations hope the talks can create conditions for fair, credible and peaceful elections in Burundi.

Burundi has been in turmoil since April 25 when Nkurunziza, who has been in power since 2005, announced that he will run for a third term in the upcoming elections, despite warnings at home and abroad.

Clashes between protesters and police, mainly in the capital Bujumbura, have left more than 30 dead, according to Burundi’s civil society groups.

The presidential poll was due in June but was postponed to July 15 following calls from regional leaders, but the opposition has refused the new date.

Opponents say Nkurunziza’s decision violates the constitution that limits the president to two terms in office.

His supporters however argue that his first term does not count as he was appointed by parliament, not elected by people.

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