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Sepp Blatter ‘offered Fifa role to Burundi president’

Fifa ex-president Sepp Blatter says he was asked by the Swiss authorities to help ease Burundi’s political crisis by offering the country’s president a job.

Sepp Blatter approached Pierre Nkurunziza about a year ago
Sepp Blatter approached Pierre Nkurunziza about a year ago

In a new book, Mr Blatter says he offered keen football fan Pierre Nkurunziza an ambassadorial role in exchange for the leader stepping down.

Mr Nkurunziza declined and won a controversial third term in office.

The Swiss foreign ministry confirmed it sought Mr Blatter’s help but denied seeking Mr Nkurunziza’s resignation.

“The intention was to contribute to a peaceful solution in order to prevent the current crisis in Burundi,” a statement said.

The approach to Mr Nkurunziza took place in May last year, shortly after the protests began against his attempt to win another term.

The Burundian leader is known for his love of football – he owns his own side, Hallelujah FC, and once coached a Burundian first division team.

In his book, Mr Blatter is quoted as saying: “I proposed to the president… if it could be an advantage for him or his country, Fifa could deploy him as an ambassador for football in Africa, or the world.”

But Mr Nkurunziza said no and was instead re-elected in a poll boycotted by the main opposition parties, who saw the bid as illegal.

Months of unrest have followed, with more than 400 people killed and tens of thousands fleeing the country.

Mr Nkurunziza’s office told the BBC the Burundian president had been approached by Mr Blatter, and that the then-Fifa chief was being used by powerful Western nations, without naming them.

Mr Blatter resigned as boss of football’s world governing body Fifa last year with the organisation mired in corruption allegations. He has since been given a six-year ban from football by Fifa for ethics violations. BBC

Timeline: Chaos in Burundi

  • April 2015: Protests erupt after President Pierre Nkurunziza announces he will seek a third term in office
  • May 2015: Constitutional court backs Mr Nkurunziza’s bid. Tens of thousands flee as demonstrations continue
  • May 2015: Army officers launch a coup attempt, which fails
  • July 2015: Elections are held, with Mr Nkurunziza re-elected. The polls are disputed, with opposition leader Agathon Rwasa describing them as “a joke”
  • December 2015: 87 people killed on one day as soldiers respond to an attack on military sites in Bujumbura
  • January 2016: Allegations emerge of mass graves and gang-rapes by Burundian security forces
  • April 2016: The UN approves a resolution paving the way for a UN police force to be deployed in Burundi