By Moses Havyarimana
Burundi has said it is ready for East African Community-mediated dialogue in efforts to end the current political crisis that has rocked the country for a year now.
Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni remains the EAC-appointed mediator for the inter-Burundi dialogue, but early this year, the EAC Heads of State Summit appointed a team under the leadership of former president of Tanzania Benjamin Mkapa to facilitate the mediation.
"Former president Mkapa's visit enabled him to assess the situation on the ground and we are ready to restart the dialogue under his mediation," Foreign Affairs Minister Alain Nyamitwe told The EastAfrican.
However, the government said it would not hold talks with opposition leaders or civil society organisations that played a role in violent protests and the failed coup last year.
US special envoy for the Great Lakes Region Thomas Perriello blamed the government for the current crisis, during his seventh visit to the country since the crisis began last year.
"Mr Perriello is not the facilitator and it is not up to him to say who should join and who shouldn't... we believe things are improving and we are waiting for the facilitator to restart the talks," said Mr Nyamitwe in response to the accusations.
Currently, there is relative calm in the country since the crisis began, but the government said 46 people have been killed since January in ongoing targeted assignations and grenade attacks, which it accused the opposition of instigating.
According to Bujumbura at least 698 people have been arrested since the beginning of this year with 150 charged with involvement in grenade attacks.
Use of torture
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein last week spoke of of a sharp increase in the use of torture and ill-treatment by security forces.
"The government says it is committed to make sure all Burundians feel safe yet we are seeing systematic documentation of torture and extra judicial killings," said the US special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region.
Bujumbura said the UN Human Rights report would be considered and consultations would be held between the UN office in Burundi and the government.
"We cannot say these allegations are true or false, we have to investigate," said the Burundi Permanent secretary in the ministry of Justice Sylvestre Nyandwi.
Mr Nyandwi said perpetrators were being brought to justice for any crime committed since last year when the violence erupted.
Gunmen recently shot dead a high-ranking military officer, seen as a critic of the regime, a witness and an army said last week on Thursday.
Lieutenant-Colonel Emmanuel Buzubona died on his way home on Wednesday along with his driver when he was attacked by three men armed with rifles and grenades, the witness said.
Army spokesman Colonel Gaspard Baratuza confirmed what the witness saw, adding that the attackers first shot Lieutenant-Colonel Buzubona and then hurled a grenade at him.