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UN envoy quits as Burundi talks mediator

By AFP | June 11th 2015

The United Nations top envoy to Burundi has quit his role mediating talks between political rivals to end weeks of civil unrest, a spokesman said Thursday.

"Said Djinnit gave up his role as mediator in the Burundian crisis, but he will return to Bujumbura as the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region," said Vladimir Monteiro, spokesman for the UN mission in Burundi. No information was given as to a possible successor.

Djinit's role in talks was questioned earlier this week by civil society leaders, who challenged his impartiality.

The troubled central African nation has been in crisis since late April over President Pierre Nkurunziza's controversial bid to stand for a third consecutive five-year term, a move branded by opponents as unconstitutional and a violation of a 2006 peace deal that ended 13 years of civil war.

Civil society leader Vital Nshimirimana said it would be "wise" to appoint another envoy who "inspires confidence in all parties," and calling for stalled talks to restart on "neutral territory" outside the country.

Around 40 people have died in a police crackdown on protests in the capital Bujumbura, and nearly 100,000 Burundians have sought refuge in neighbouring countries.

Protesters gathered in some suburbs of Bujumbura on Thursday -- as they have done almost every day since April 26 -- with hundreds chanting slogans and singing against Nkurunziza's third term bid.

Parliamentary elections are now slated for June 29 and a presidential poll on July 15, after delays due to the unrest.

Burundi's opposition, which has said that fair polls are not possible because independent media has been shut down and many opponents have fled the country, have accused the president of trying to force a vote regardless of the crisis.

Nkurunziza survived a coup attempt last month and has since faced down international pressure, including aid cuts, aimed at forcing him to reconsider his attempt to stay in power, which diplomats fear could plunge the country back into war.

The elections are also going ahead despite a string of resignations by election commission officials. On Wednesday Nkurunziza issued another decree allowing the remaining three out of five members of the commission, which had been paralysed by two resignations, to take majority decisions.

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