Belfast Telegraph

Archbishop of Burundi urges Stormont MLAs to do a deal

By Brett Campbell

The Archbishop of Burundi has called for MLAs to get back to Stormont or give up their salaries during a trip to Belfast.

The Most Rev Martin Blaise Nyaboho made the appeal yesterday during his tour of Ireland on a mission to highlight the role of the Anglican Church and the work of Christian Aid Ireland in the war-torn African nation.

Rev Nyaboho, who was appointed Anglican Archbishop in the majority Catholic country last year, has been mediating between politicians in one of the world's poorest nations and is promoting co-operation in the social and political sphere.

"The problem now is purely political - we have governors who will not share power, but Catholics, Protestants and Muslims are working in unity," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"It is the church that has been chairing the conversation between confused politicians and demanding that they keep their promises."

Burundi, one of the smallest countries in Africa, is struggling to emerge from a bloody 12-year civil war that came to an end in 2005. But violence flared again in April 2015 following widespread opposition to President Pierre Nkurunziza's run for a third term in office, which was deemed to be unconstitutional - it has resulted in almost half-a-million people fleeing as refugees.

But the Anglican primate is optimistic he will see a truly stable, democratic society in Burundi because the government is "recognising that one voice is too powerful to be ignored".

"Now we are witnessing massive repatriation with over 50,000 people expected to return by Christmas," he said.

Rev Nyaboho was one of many church leaders appointed as provincial electoral independent commission chairs, and presided over the 2010 election as vice president in Makamba and again as president in 2015.

He believes it is a significant development.

"Even Muslims came up to me when I was appointed and said congratulations, now we can trust the electoral process," he explained.

The clergyman has been working hard to bring down barriers and end Catholic bans on children who are not baptised within the Catholic Church from attending its schools, and similar Protestant school policies.

The archbishop also issued a call for MLAs here to "get back to work for the welfare of everyone" or else give up their salaries.

"I don't want to call it corruption, but when you harvest what you have not planted, what else can you call it?" he asked.

"Is what they want the same as what the people want?

"If so, then go back to work and debate these issues properly."

Belfast Telegraph

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