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Cablegate: Burundi Hosts Tanzanian President

VZCZCXYZ0025
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHJB #0467/01 1761527
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 251527Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY BUJUMBURA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0392
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CDR USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC

UNCLAS BUJUMBURA 000467

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SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR AF/C AND PRM

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ECON ETRD PHUM PINR PREF PREL BY
SUBJECT: BURUNDI HOSTS TANZANIAN PRESIDENT

REF: A. BUJUMBURA 454
B. BUJUMBURA 466

1. (U) Summary. Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete made his
first state visit to Burundi June 19-21 in answer to
President Nkurunziza's November 2006 visit to Tanzania.
Kikwete's visit immediately followed talks in Dar-Es-Salaam
between President Nkurunziza and FNL leader Agathon Rwasa.
Tanzanian officials in Bujumbura denied that Kikwete's visit
was related, noting that the trip had been planned for
several months. President Kikwete told the Burundian media
that with the return of peace and security in Burundi,
refugees in Tanzania should begin returning to their homes in
Burundi, but insisted that the decision to leave was not
Tanzania's alone. He also visited a sugar-processing facilty
in Rutana province, calling for increased international
cooperation between Burundi and Tanzania in this field.
Although some Burundians expresed discontent with the
magnitude of Burundi's official response to Kikwete's visit,
worrying about its social and economic costs, most recognized
the opportunities in welcoming the president of one of their
most important neighbors. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, in his first
head-of-state visit to Burundi since assuming office in
December 2005, met officially with Burundian President Pierre
Nkurunziza and other high-ranking officials during his
three-day stay. According to Tanzanian Embassy officials,
the June 19-21 visit was an opportunity for President Kikwete
to reciprocate the November 2006 visit by President
Nkurunziza to Tanzania. Alex Rutatangwa, Acting Deputy Chief
of Mission at the Tanzanian mission in Bujumbura, reminded
Emboff in a June 24 meeting that President Kikwete made
official visits to other states in the region following his
assumption of office in late December 2005. Rutatangwa
stated that President Kikwete did not include Burundi in his
official visits at that time so as not to interfere in
ongoing talks between the new government of President
Nkurunziza and the PALIPEHUTU-FNL (FNL).

3. (SBU) President Kikwete's state visit immediately followed
meetings between Nkurunziza and FNL leader Agathon Rwasa held
in Dar-Es-Salaam (Reftels) on June 17. Rutatanga referred to
the timing of Kikwete's visit to Bujumbura as a "fortuitous
coincidence", stating that the dates of the visit were, of
course, set several months in advance. He said that
President Kikwete did not arrive in Burundi with an formal
agenda for bilateral discussions with President Nkurunziza,
but acknowledged that the "fortuitous coincidence" of the
meetings in Dar-Es-Salaam with Kikwete's visit brought the
issue to the forefront. Rutatangwa did not divulge details
of their discussions on the peace process.

4. (U) Responding to questions from the media, President
Kikwete addressed the anticipated December 2007 return of
more than 150,000 Burundian refugees living in Tanzanian
camps since 1993. He pointed out that while the refugees
were in Tanzania for security reasons, having fled the
decade-long war, they could now return safely to Burundi due
to its growing peace and improved security. Noting the
lessening security concerns which once forced the refugees to
flee to Tanzania, Kikwete asked why these Burundians would
want to continue living in refugee camps in Tanzania, even
joking that "President Nkurunziza was yesterday a leader of
the rebel movement, but he is now the President of the
Republic." However, he indicated that it was not Tanzania
alone who would decide the repatriation of the refugees
living there, but the Tripartite Commission of Burundi,
Tanzania, and the High Commission for Refugees. Kikwete
added, though, that should a former refugee choose to stay in
Tanzania, all legal procedures concerning naturalization must
be followed.

5. (U) President Kikwete also toured a sugar-processing
facility in Rutana province, along the frontier with
Tanzania's Kigoma province. The object of his visit to the
Mosso Sugar Company (SOSUMO) factory was to investigate the
potential for increased Burundian-Tanzanian cooperation in
the cultivation and procesing of sugar cane, one of Burundi's
most important agricultural products. Kikwete asked the
Governor of Rutana to make contact with his counterpart in
Kigoma, whom he called on to cede land to SOSOMU for
increased sugar cane production.

6. (U) Comment. Kikwete is the most senior leader to visit
Burundi since Nkurunziza assumed office in August 2005.
Although thousands of Burundians lined the streets of
Bujumbura to welcome President Kikwete, some civil society
members complained that the massive mobilization was forced,
and suggested a return to the years of dictatorship and
one-party rule. As reported by Radio Isanganiro, the vice
president of the Observatory on Governmental Action, a
Burundian NGO that promotes good governance, worried that the
grand welcome and parade-like atmosphere impeded vital public
services. She expressed concern that the welcome
unnecessarily drained the public treasury at a time of
economic troubles. In general, though, most Burundians are
pleased with the presidential visit of one of their most
important neighbors, particularly now that Burundi is joining
itself economically to the East African Community. Even if
this visit was just one of reciprocity, Burundi benefits by
staying close to this large, and vitally important, partner.
End Comment.
MOLLER

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