East African foreign ministers arrived in Burundi Wednesday following days of deadly demonstrations against a third term bid by President Pierre Nkurunziza, the government said.
Ministers from neighbouring Rwanda and Tanzania, as well as Kenya and Uganda, were in the capital Bujumbura for talks.
“They have come to listen to all parties in the conflict, and to try to propose ways out of crisis,” said Burundi’s foreign ministry spokesman Daniel Kabuto.
Protesters have defied calls to end demonstrations, after more than a week of running battles in which at least 13 people have been killed, including police.
Last week the East African Community (EAC) — the five-nation bloc that includes Burundi — called in a statement for talks to ease tensions and to ensure “the realisation of a peaceful, free and fair electoral process.”
The EAC also called on Burundi to “ensure that the electoral process does not lead to humanitarian crisis”, noting that tens of thousands of Burundians have already fled into neighbouring nations fearing violence.
The president, a former rebel leader from the Hutu majority who has been in power since 2005, has come under intense international pressure to withdraw from the June 26 presidential poll.
Burundi, where a 13-year civil war between Tutsis and Hutus ended only in 2006, has been rocked by violent protests since the CNDD-FDD designated Nkurunziza to stand in what critics say is in defiance of the constitution and the Arusha accords which ended the war