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Ban Ki-moon starts his visit to Burundi since start of crisis

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Bujumbura: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Bujumbura today on his first visit to Burundi since a political crisis began in April last year.

Ban, who landed today afternoon an AFP reporter said, is to hold talks with President Pierre Nkurunziza tomorrow morning after meeting political parties and civil society leaders in hopes of giving fresh impetus to stalled efforts at resolving the 10-month-old crisis.

“This is a very important visit because we hope the UN Secretary General will bring his weight to bear on President Pierre Nkurunziza so he finally accepts an inclusive and unconditional dialogue with his opponents,” a UN official told AFP ahead of Ban’s arrival.

A Western diplomat in Burundi said he hoped Ban would also discuss, “massive violations of human rights observed since the beginning of the crisis.”

“We hope the visit will convince (Nkurunziza) to accept a genuine international investigation into these allegations,” the diplomat said.

Burundi was thrown into crisis in April when Nkurunziza decided to run for a controversial third term that he went on to win in July.

More than 400 people have been killed and over 240,000 have left the country since then, with thousands more arrested and the security forces repeatedly accused of extrajudicial executions and other human rights violations.

Ban’s visit comes after the Burundi government appeared to soften its position towards opponents by agreeing to receive a delegation of African heads of state, expected later this week, and by cancelling international arrest warrants against several exiled opposition leaders.

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