NAIROBI (Reuters) - Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza has condemned the killing of a senior army officer who was shot along with his wife and bodyguard in an attack that also wounded their child in an expanding wave of violence in the central African nation.
Brigadier General Athanase Kararuza, who was a military adviser in the office of the vice president, was dropping his child off at a school in the capital Bujumbura on Monday when his car was attacked by rocket and gun fire, army spokesman Gaspard Baratuza told reporters.
Kararuza had previously worked as a deputy commander of an international peace force in the Central African Republic (CAR).
“He energetically fought against the coup plotters last year and exceptionally contributed in strengthening peace and security during and after elections,” Nkurunziza said in a statement late on Monday.
“We humbly pray that, with the help of God, perpetrators of the shameful acts are arrested and quickly punished according to the law.”
Tit-for-tat attacks between Nkurunziza’s security forces and his opponents have escalated since April 2015 when he announced a disputed bid for a third term as president. He won re-election in July.
The United Nations says more than 400 people have been killed and more than 250,000 have fled the country.
Burundi and neighbouring Rwanda, which both have an ethnic Hutu majority and Tutsi minority, have been torn apart by ethnic conflict in the past. Experts fear the recent violence during the political crisis in Burundi may reopen old ethnic wounds and risk causing civil war.
As a step to defuse the crisis, former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa - heading a mediating team under the East African Community trade bloc to which Burundi belongs - said on Sunday he would convene talks among all the parties in the dispute between May 2-6 in the Tanzanian city of Arusha.
Willy Nyamitwe, a spokesman in the president’s office, said they were yet to receive a formal invitation to the talks.
“The government of Burundi has to be consulted, we have to agree upon persons to invite, the date and the venue,” he said.
Charles Nditije, a member of opposition coalition CNARED, said they would attend the talks when they get an invitation.
“We are ready to go to talks without preconditions and to discuss every topic. It is not for the government to determine who goes to the negotiating table while it is a party to the conflict,” he said.
Previous talks held last year faltered when the government refused to meet with people it said were supporting violence.
On Monday the international war crimes court said it would investigate the rising violence in Burundi.
Three armed groups, including one led by officers that attempted a coup in May 2015, have launched armed rebellions against Nkurunziza’s government.
Writing by Elias Biryabarema and George Obulutsa, editing by Gareth Jones