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Burundi officials skip crisis talks days before poll

A cyclist carries a metal gate on the back of his bicycle in Bujumbura, Burundi, Sunday July 19, 2015. As Burundians are getting ready to go to the poll Tuesday July 21, three candidates, including two former presidents, announced their withdrawal from Burundi's upcoming presidential race, predicting the contest in this restive African nation will not be free and fair. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) — Government representatives failed to show up Sunday for talks in Burundi aimed at ending the unrest caused by the president’s controversial bid for a third term, forcing the mediation to be adjourned just ahead of Tuesday’s election, the talks facilitator said.

Ugandan Defense Minister Crispus Kiyonga, who is acting as mediator, stopped short of saying the talks had collapsed and said the government should be given a chance to explain itself. The talks are backed by the East African Community.

“The dialogue has not failed it is still on, we have only adjourned,” Kiyonga said. He said the mediation process had made progress in a few days by getting the government and the opposition to sit down and agree on what the issues are to be discussed, including restoring security and the refugee crisis.

Burundi has been rocked by violence that has left more than 100 people dead. Over 144,000 people have fled the country since the ruling party announced President Pierre Nkurunziza’s candidacy in April.

Interior Minister Edouard Nduwimana said that the government had skipped the dialogue because of statements made by the opposition about the need for democratic institutions, which he said suggested they hoped to take power through a coup.

He told The Associated Press that the government had to discuss the opposition’s remarks with the facilitator before returning to the talks.

The opposition, however, maintained that the government quit because discussions had shifted to the upcoming elections.

“The government does not want to discuss the electoral calendar and wants to do everything according to its plan,” said opposition spokesman Jean Minani.

Kiyonga said talks will continue even after the elections and the contentious issue of the president’s third term will still be in the agenda.

Earlier United Nations-backed negotiations between the parties collapsed after the opposition insisted on Nkurunziza’s exit.


This version corrects Uganda’s Defense Ministers name from Crypus to Crispus

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