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The Burundi Rebellion and the Ceasefire Negotiations


OVERVIEW

Prospects are still weak for a ceasefire agreement in Burundi that includes all rebel factions. Despite the Arusha agreement in August 2000 and installation of a transition government on 1 November 2001, the warring parties, the Burundi army and the various factions of the Party for the Liberation of the Hutu People/National Liberation Forces (PALIPEHUTU-FNL) and of the National Council for the Defense of Democracy/Defense Forces of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), are still fighting. Neither side has been able to gain a decisive military advantage, although the army recently claimed several important victories.

A ceasefire – the missing element in the Arusha framework – has been elusive despite on-going activity by the South African facilitation team to initiate joint and separate talks with the rebels. In February 2002, the transition government and the facilitation team requested Tanzania’s help to bring the rebels to the table. Since 28 July 2002, the CNDD-FDD factions have been holding internal consultations in Dar-es-Salaam that should lead to direct negotiations with the transition government. Global negotiations are to start in Tanzania on 6 August. A subsequent regional summit should evaluate the achievements of those talks. Its unspoken principles will be to decide whether sanctions should be applied to those who remain outside the process. So far both factions of the CNDD-FDD have shown signs of commitment to the talks but the PALIPEHUTU-FNL is perceived as a stumbling block and a likely target for sanctions.

Arusha provided that the presidency would be transferred after eighteen months from Pierre Buyoya to the current vice-president, FRODEBU’s Domitien Ndayizeye, but there is a risk this will not happen if a ceasefire is not agreed soon. This would almost certainly collapse the entire Arusha framework. FRODEBU – Buyoya’s transition partner and the main Hutu political party – would have to concede the Hutu rebels’ chief criticism, that it could not deliver on the political promises it made in signing Arusha. The fractious coalition would appear a toothless partner in a flawed power-sharing deal with a government that had no intention of reforming. All this would likely lead to escalation rather than an end to fighting.

This briefing paper provides information about and a context for understanding the rebel factions, whose history, objectives and internal politics are little known outside Burundi. It analyses their dynamics, operational situations and negotiating positions and is a product of extensive field research conducted in Tanzania and in Burundi, including meetings with key front-line rebel leaders.

Nairobi/Brussels, 6 August 2002




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