Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni will fly to Burundi on Tuesday to mediate between government and opposition, an official said, in a personal intervention underlining the scale of regional alarm over a violent stand-off.
Opposition politicians have accused Burundi’s president of violating the constitution by running for a third term in July 21 elections. They are boycotting the vote and have called a series of protests.
Diplomats warn the dispute could spiral into large-scale conflict. A general involved in a failed coup in May said he was mobilising troops and armed clashes erupted in the north of a country still scarred by civil war.
Salvator Ntacobamaze, the permanent secretary in Burundi’s cooperation ministry, told Reuters the details of talks had not been finalised but Museveni would arrive on Tuesday.
Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza has shrugged off calls from Washington and other governments for him not to run, saying his candidacy has been judged legal by a court ruling.
General Leonard Ngendakumana, a leader in the abortive May 13 putsch, told Reuters last week his group was still working to oust Nkurunziza..
Ngendakumana, a former intelligence officer, acknowledged late on Sunday his men had carried out attacks over the weekend in northern areas bordering Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Baratuza Gaspard, spokesman for the Burundian army, said 31 rebels and a civilian had been killed in the clashes. Another 170 rebels were captured while six soldiers and a civilian were injured, he said.
“There are no more clashes but soldiers are searching for any rebels who may be hiding,” Gaspard told journalists at the scene of the clashes in Cibitoke province.
Ngendakumana had earlier rejected claims the rebels had taken heavy losses in the weekend fighting.
A flare-up in Burundi could have repercussions well beyond the borders of the central African nation of 10 million people and create fresh instability in a region with a history of ethnic conflict.
More than 145,000 Burundians – almost 1.5 percent of the population – have fled to neighbouring states in recent months. The crisis could drag in regional players like Rwanda, where hundreds of thousands died in an ethnic genocide in 1994.