SA urges calm in Burundi

2010-07-01 19:00

Pretoria - South Africa on Thursday urged calm in Burundi after elections boycotted by the opposition and accompanied by an upsurge of violence in the central African nation.

Incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza was the only candidate in Sunday's vote. Opposition leader and former rebel leader Agathon Rwasa went into hiding days earlier, after accusing the government of rigging local elections in May.

"We are concerned about grenade attacks before the presidential election in Burundi and about reports that some leaders won't recognise the authority of the president because they have rejected the election," foreign ministry director general Ayanda Ntsaluba said.

"President Jacob Zuma told an envoy from the government in Bujumbura and conveyed the message very firmly that Burundi has come too far down the road of peace and democratisation to return to war.

"We hope the temptation to move back to war, reportedly being considered by some leaders will not be taken up," Ntsaluba said.

He said South Africa and countries of the Great Lakes region had worked very hard over a number of years to give Burundi "the best possible chance for peace and stability".

"We join with members of the East African community in appealing for calm in Burundi," he added.

Zuma peace broker

South Africa was a key broker in Burundi's peace process, and Zuma as deputy president played a major role in the talks.

Rwasa was the leader of the Hutu National Liberation Forces (FNL), which laid down its weapons last year.

At least 10 people have been killed and more than 60 injured in a series of grenade attacks and violent incidents since the local elections.