Johannesburg - Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said political instability and violence in Burundi could spill over into the region, also as people flee the country.
“As people flee they are going to various countries in the region and that leads to instability of a number proportions for those countries,” he said.
“Clearly Burundi’s stability is in the interest of all the countries in the region. And that is why the leaders said we cannot stand by to see violence and political strife tearing Burundi apart; that should not be allowed.
“We will make sure that we work to stop the violence that is unfolding there.”
Ramaphosa spoke to the SABC and the Government and Communication and Information System in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, following the East African Regional summit on Burundi yesterday. The summit coincided with an attempt by Burundi’s military to oust President Pierre Nkurunziza.
Nkurunziza, who was attending the summit after he changed the country’s constitution to seek a third term in power, has been refused entry back into Burundi.
Ramaphosa said leaders at the summit felt that events in Burundi could affect the region and a political solution should be found.
The leaders, in a summit communiqué yesterday, called on Burundi to postpone its presidential elections, which were scheduled for June 26, to allow for issues to be resolved.
Ramaphosa said the determination of the region’s leaders “to make sure that peace is found”, made him hopeful that the situation in Burundi would not be allowed to “deteriorate”.
Ramaphosa said he was sent by President Jacob Zuma to attend the summit because of the work done by Zuma and other South African leaders to create peace and stability in Burundi.
The late president Julius Nyerere from Tanzania was the chief mediator in the conflict in Burundi in 1996, followed by the late president Nelson Mandela, who handed over to Zuma.
“They created a very good and strong foundation for peace and stability in Burundi,” said Ramaphosa.
“So these events are spoiling and soiling that wonderful legacy of peace, democracy and stability. That is what concerns us. It is for that reason that President Zuma felt that I should come and attend this summit,” he said.
Ramaphosa said South Africa’s position was that there needed to be “a political approach and solution to the problems that currently beset Burundi”.
He said the focus should be on security and stability, and on preventing people from leaving the country “in droves”.
“The violence in the streets of Bujumbura should also stop and people should settle down and try and resolve the problems in a peaceful way. Now that is South Africa’s strong position,” he said.
At the end of last month the United Nations Refugee Agency reported that nearly 21 000 Burundians had fled to Rwanda, saying they experienced intimidation and threats of violence.
Recently there were reports that up to 15 000 Burundians were waiting to cross Lake Tanganyika to Tanzania.
Protests against Nkurunziza’s attempt to run for a third presidential term have left 20 dead following clashes in the capital city Bujumbura.