Kampala (AFP) - Rival Burundi factions travelled to Uganda on Sunday ahead of talks aimed at ending months of violence, diplomats said, as the African Union pushes the government to accept a peacekeeping force.
Those travelling include a government delegation as well as some opposition members and civil society representatives, diplomats said, ahead of talks on Monday at Uganda's presidential palace in Entebbe, just outside the capital Kampala.
"The talks on Burundi will be opening in Entebbe... all the parties including government will be here for the talks," Uganda's Defence Minister Crispus Kiyonga told AFP, adding that they would be chaired by President Yoweri Museveni.
Burundi's unrest began in April when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his intention to run for a controversial third term, which he went on to win in July.
The key opposition coalition, CNARED, a grouping that presents itself as upholding the 2006 Arusha peace agreement ending more than a decade of civil war, and which it says Nkurunziza has undermined, is also due to attend.
However, Burundi's government has so far refused to hold talks with CNARED, calling it a "terrorist organisation" and accusing it of being behind a failed coup in May as well as ongoing attacks on security forces.
The 54-member African Union said last week it would send a 5,000-strong force to halt violence that has sparked fears that Burundi is sliding back towards civil war, and has pledged to send troops despite Burundi's fierce opposition.
Rebels this week announced they had created a new force, the Republican Forces of Burundi, or Forebu.
AU Commission chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on Friday said she would welcome "the resumption of the inter-Burundian dialogue in Entebbe", and said she had written to Nkurunziza pleading for the force to be allowed to deploy, "to seek the consent of the Burundian government for the early deployment" of peacekeepers.
The force, the African Prevention and Protection Mission in Burundi, is known by its acronym in French, MAPROBU.
"The deployment of MAPROBU and the effective implementation of its mandate will greatly help in defusing the current tension and reducing the level of violence," Dlamini-Zuma added in a statement.
The government has termed the proposed peacekeepers an "invasion force" and on Saturday, pro-government crowds marched through the streets of Burundi's capital Bujumbura to show their opposition to it.
Dlamini-Zuma "stressed that the AU has no other agenda than to assist the government and people of Burundi at their hour of need."