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Regional summit on Burundi begins

Heads of state from Africa's Great Lakes region began an extraordinary summit on Friday in Nairobi, Kenya to discuss Burundi's electoral process and timetable. Sources at the meeting said the leaders were expected to announce an extension to Burundi's transitional government, whose three-year period is due to end on 31 October. The extension would allow the Independent National Electoral Commission to organise a referendum on the constitution and general elections. The closed-door meeting was chaired by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who also the chairs the region's initiative on Burundi. Presidents Domitien Ndayizeye of Burundi, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Mwai Kibaki of Kenya and newly installed Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed of Somalia attended. South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma, who is the facilitator of the Burundi peace process and the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative to Burundi, Carolyn McAskie, also attended. The summit began a day after the region's leaders attended the inauguration of the new president of Somalia in the Kenyan capital. The leaders have held several summits on Burundi to help steer the country away from 11 years of war and lay the foundation for a lasting peace. "They have agreed to meet to discuss the election process and hear proposals by the Burundian electoral commissioners in the fringes of an IGAD [Inter-governmental Authority on Development] summit," Julius Onen, the permanent secretary in the Ugandan Foreign Ministry, told IRIN on Wednesday from Kampala. The leaders are expected to discuss Burundi's election timetable and examine proposals discussed in Kampala this week when Burundian electoral commissioners met Museveni and Zuma. "The commissioners proposed a timetable for elections," Onen said. "Some dates were within the deadline (of the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Accord of August 2000) and others were outside, but the leaders will look at that and decide." The regional initiative was set up to oversee the peace process in Burundi, where several armed Hutu groups took up arms in 1993 against the government after the Tutsi-dominated army assassinated the first elected Hutu president, Melchoir Ndadaye. Some 300,000 Burundians have been killed since the war started in 1993. Fighting has ceased in most parts of the country, with the exception of the western province of Bujumbura Rural, which is the stronghold of the only rebel movement that is still fighting government forces. Several other former rebel movements have signed ceasefire and power-sharing agreements with the transitional government. Under the Peace and Reconciliation Accord that Burundian parties signed in August 2000 in Arusha, Tanzania, President Domitien Ndayizeye is due to hand over power to a head of state elected by parliament by 1 November.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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