Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza bids farewell to his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma at the airport after an Africa Union-sponsored dialogue in an attempt to end months of violence in the capital Bujumbura, February 27, 2016.
BUJUMBURA, Burundi – The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) withdrew Burundi’s right to host the summit of heads of member states scheduled for October.
In a letter sent to the Burundian government, Comesa secretary general Sindiso Ngwenya said Burundi did not fulfil the required conditions to host the summit. Among reasons provided was that Burundi did not have an adequate vehicle pool to ensure the transportation of VIPs, including heads of state.
This had been concluded after a visit by a delegation evaluating Burundi’s capacity to receive guests and reception conditions.
Ngwenya added that the Burundian government had not allowed the delegation to visit hotels to check whether there were enough rooms for all the delegations. “The government did not allow such a visit, whereas it pretended to have reserved 1,000 rooms and 31 retinues in a secure place.” Burundi did not even have relevant infrastructure, nor a reliable internet connection, he said.
Another factor counting against Burundi was the absence of Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza at the secretariat meeting in 2016. Attending this meeting was one of the preconditions for a country to be elected to host a summit.
Burundi has fallen back into deep crisis since Nkurunziza announced he would run for a third term of office in 2015. This led to popular protests which culminated in a failed coup in May 2015. Since then, Nkurunziza has not left the country.
Now, the small nation in the Great Lakes region is suffering the consequences of European Union (EU) economic sanctions. The EU accuses Burundian authorities of having not done enough to negotiate with the opposition to restore peace.
“In 1984, Burundi had successfully hosted the 11th Franco-African summit, but today it is deemed unfit to host a Comesa summit,” an unidentified diplomat said.
Comesa was formed in 1994 to replace the preferential trade agreement in existence since 1981. It comprises 20 member states, stretching from Libya to Swaziland.
The summit has been rescheduled to be held in Lusaka, Zambia. The Burundi proposal to host the summit had been made and accepted during a previous Comesa summit in 2015 in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia.