Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza arrived in Tanzania on Thursday for his first foreign trip in more than two years, seeking to revive political dialogue on the crisis in his country.
Nkurunziza arrived with a heavily armed escort in the northwest Tanzanian town of Ngara, about 15 kilometres (eight miles) from the Rwandan border.
The visit had been kept secret up to the last moment.
He was welcomed by Tanzanian President John Magufuli at a football ground, where he was honoured with a 21-gun salute, live TV coverage on Tanzanian television showed.
“Their discussion will cover, among other issues, the peace process” in Burundi, Macocha Tembele, an aide to former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa who has been working as a facilitator in the crisis, said in a tweet.
A diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the meeting had been initiated by Magufuli.
“It was approved by the East African Community (EAC) in a bid to persuade Nkurunziza to take part in inter-Burundian dialogue without conditions,” the source said, referring to the six-nation association gathering Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.
“The international community is expecting a lot from this meeting, because Magufuli is one of the few people to have influence” over Nkurunziza, the source said.
Burundi has been in the grip of a crisis since Nkurunziza’s controversial decision on April 2015 to run for a third term in office.
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He won elections that July that were boycotted by the opposition.
It branded the vote a violation of the constitution.
Between 500 and 2,000 people have been killed in clashes, according to UN and NGO sources.
More than 400,000 people have fled and dozens of opposition activists have been forced into exile.
The last time Nkurunziza left the country was in May 2015 when he went to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania for an EAC summit, but rushed home to tackle an attempted coup.