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Burundi After Six Months Of Transition: Continuing The War Or Winning Peace?

To access the report in French, please click here.

Six months after the installation of the transition government, the promises of peace and reconciliation of the Arusha accords have not materialised. The ceasefire negotiations in South Africa, between the government and the various rebel factions, have not produced a single concrete result. On the contrary, the main rebel group, the CNDD-FDD faction, led by Jean-Pierre Nkurunziza, has now rejected the South African facilitator, Vice President Zuma, and called for the process to be transferred to Tanzania. On the ground, war has intensified and parties' positions are radicalising, leaving less and less space for a negotiated peace.

Meanwhile, the Arusha accord is not being implemented, steadily reducing the credibility of those who wanted it, and increasing social and economic tensions, a situation that is easily borne by the enemies of the peace process. The political implementation of the agreement is threatened, notably the transfer of power to a Hutu president after the remaining twelve months of the first half of the three-year transition.

One reason for the failure of the current process is that the parties to the negotiations do not all want the same ceasefire. President Buyoya had barely been confirmed as first leader of the transition when the army restarted the war in the hope of crushing the rebels and so avoiding the reform of the security forces foreseen in the peace agreement. FRODEBU, the champion of the Arusha accord, would prefer a technical ceasefire negotiation and a swift integration of the rebels into the army, to avoid the rebel leaders emerging as political competitors for the Hutu electorate. But trapped by its inability to rally the rebels behind it, FRODEBU now finds itself locked into supporting Buyoya's war. The other Arusha signatories see the ceasefire negotiations as little more than a window of opportunity to reopen talk on the distribution of key posts. The FDD and FNL rebel groups, who were not party to Arusha, want to reopen the accord, increase their bargaining power, or even let the institutions of transition collapse, in order to appear indispensable. In all this confusion, the facilitation team and the international community have been tempted to force the Arusha agreement down the rebels' throats, or adopt an "Angolan scenario" through the imposition of sanctions.

However, the ceasefire negotiation is not a formality, and the ceasefire itself is not an empty slogan. It is the most difficult and most critical part of the process as it threatens important individual and collective security interests. It is bound to reveal a raw struggle for control of the security forces and other instruments of power. A multi-headed facilitation, working rapidly and in an ad hoc manner, cannot see the process through. It is essential that the roles of Vice-President Zuma and Presidents Mkapa and Bongo are clarified by Nelson Mandela, and that a team is put in place with various contact points throughout the region to provide the rebels the confidence, space and means needed to negotiate, at first between themselves, then with the government. The immediate objective is that the army and the rebel groups negotiate a truce to enable humanitarian access to internally displaced persons and relieve the suffering of the population. The more long-term objective is to negotiate Chapter III of the Arusha accord - the cease-fire and reform of the security forces.

Finally, it must not be forgotten that when the Arusha accord was signed, a consensus existed in the international community and throughout the region on the need to implement its reform program. To resign itself to disinheriting the accord - allowing it to be taken hostage by the ceasefire issue - is the surest way to condemn Burundi's chance for peace. It will only be through political consistency and concrete reforms that the reasons for the rebels to fight will disappear. These reforms should be supported financially and politically by a vigilant international community.


To Nelson Mandela:

  1. Clarify the respective roles of Vice President Zuma and of Presidents Omar Bongo of Gabon and Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania while adopting a clear strategy for the negotiations.

    To The Co-Facilitators Of The Peace Process, Vice-President Zuma, President Bongo And President Mkapa:

  2. Immediately appoint a logistical support team for the facilitation to work full time to obtain a ceasefire in Burundi, with representatives in Bujumbura and Dar-es-Salaam.

  3. Guarantee equal treatment between all the parties to the negotiations, in order to rebuild confidence with the delegates of the rebel groups, in particular by ensuring that the rebels get travel documents and necessary logistical help to reach the place of the talks.

  4. Give utmost priority to the negotiation of a temporary cessation of hostilities, ahead of the negotiations on the reform of the security forces and for a permanent cease fire. Demand that the parties immediately respect international humanitarian law, in order to relieve the suffering of the population throughout the country. Ask the United Nations to prepare to send a mission to verify the terms of the truce.

    To Burundi's Donors, And The International Financial Institutions:

  5. Implement strict controls on the use of aid, to avoid it being used to buy weapons and ammunition or to feed the businesses of the political-military oligarchy in Bujumbura.

  6. Give priority to projects that benefit the rural population, especially to help returning refugees and internally displaced people.

    To The Secretary General Of The United Nations:

  7. Order the immediate installation in Bujumbura of a UN special representative in charge of presiding over the Implementation Monitoring Committee.

    To President Pierre Buyoya and the Transition Government:

  8. Immediately cease all military offensives against rebel positions and all attempts to eliminate its leadership and adopt defensive positions to allow the rebellion to negotiate a truce.

  9. Without waiting for a cease fire, immediately implement the following measures of the Arusha agreement, notably:

    (a) the recommendations of the international commission of inquiry on political prisoners;

    (b) the reshuffle of all governors and representatives of the territorial administration, excluding all militaries from the process; and

    (c) establishment of the Burundian special protection unit made up of 50 per cent Hutu and 50 per cent Tutsi members.

  10. Open a broad public debate on the reform of the armed forces, as proof of a genuine commitment to solving Burundi's civil war, and including a detailed public consultation with all army ranks.

    To The Rebel Groups:

  11. Cease immediately all attacks and other guerrilla operations on Burundian army positions and civilian targets, and cease all relations with the Armée de Libération du Rwanda (ALiR).

  12. Start immediate negotiations towards a truce, in order to facilitate access of humanitarian agencies to internally displaced people.

    To The Regional Governments Of Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania And The DRC:

  13. Support the facilitation team's s clarified negotiation strategy and cease all direct involvement in the Burundian conflict.

  14. Sustain political and diplomatic pressure on all belligerents to push them to genuine commitments to the peace process and towards genuine reform of the Burundian security forces.

    Nairobi/Brussels, 24 May 2002


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