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Burundi cancels arrest warrants for exiled politicians

Judicial authorities in Burundi have cancelled international arrest warrants against 15 exiled political figures including several opposition leaders, according to a document seen by AFP on Friday.

Those affected include Leonard Nyangoma, head of the CNARED umbrella opposition group in Burundi, which has been rocked by political turmoil for almost a year.

Almost everyone on the list was among a group of politicians, civil society leaders and independent journalists accused of instigating protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term — which he won in July — and an attempted coup in May 2015.

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They include Nyangoma’s spokesman Pancrace Cimpaye and two prominent former members of the ruling party who fell out of favour, Pie Ntavyohanyuma and Gervais Rufyikiri.

“I have the honour of bringing to your attention that the international arrest warrants which were issued against the following persons have been cancelled,” Burundi’s chief prosecutor Valentin Bagorukunda wrote in a letter to police dated February 3.

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“The reasons for the issuing of the warrants no longer exist,” he added without giving details, asking police to request that Interpol deactivate the warrants.

Political tensions have soared in Burundi since Nkurunziza announced his bid for a third term in April last year and the government has refused to engage in dialogue with the opposition, despite international pressure.

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The news comes three days before a visit to Burundi by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, with a high-level African Union delegation also arriving later next week.

A Western diplomat in the capital Bujumbura told AFP that the move was a “goodwill gesture” ahead of the visits.

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