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Burundi: Neither War nor Peace

 PDF version of Burundi: Neither War nor Peace Click here to view the full report as a PDF file in A4 format.
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After two and a half years of negotiations in Arusha, nineteen Burundian political parties finally signed a peace agreement on 28 August 2000, in the presence of U.S. President Bill Clinton and of many regional Heads of State. However, a mere three months after its signature, the prospects for a permanent resolution of the Burundi conflict remain dim, and the hopes kindled by the Arusha signing ceremony are being replaced by dangerous uncertainty and fear that a new round of intense fighting may be on the way.

Signed under intense pressure from Talks Facilitator Nelson Mandela and from the leaders of the region, the agreement did not include a ceasefire. The main rebel leaders, having joined with Kabila's military forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), could not be persuaded to take part in the Arusha peace process. Far from quelling the level of violence, the peace agreement marked the start of a resurgence of violence. Tired of the deadlock in negotiations, Heads of State in the region issued an ultimatum to the rebels in September to lay down their weapons or face sanctions.

The most important achievement of the peace agreement was to bring to a close the marathon round of talks at Arusha. Its formula, which included all the main parties but excluded the main rebel groups, had reached its limits and could not take the peace process any further. The principal result of the talks, the agreement itself, is a thorough and balanced reflection of the parties' wishes for political representation and access to political power, and is based on a series of unanimous resolutions. The three completed protocols (I, II, IV) establish a clear and accurate program of action aimed at advancing the cause of reconciliation, democracy and reconstruction in Burundi.

However, the document is also seriously weakened by several paradoxes. First, the signature of the government-secured thanks to last-minute concessions by the President of the main Hutu party, FRODEBU-was obtained on condition that no compromise would be made in relation to power sharing arrangements (including the transition plan and army reform). Ultimately, the government did not compromise because the rebel leaders had offered no guarantees on ending the war.

Second, the signing of the Arusha accord will probably legitimise the continuation of the war against the rebels. President Buyoya emerged a winner from the last-minute Arusha negotiations, and from the regional summit in Nairobi, where the rebels were perceived as "negative forces". Rehabilitated into the regional community by his signature, and having hit the ball back into the Facilitator's court, Buyoya intends to capitalise on the ensuing limbo to negotiate his appointment as leader of the transition, which would then take place on his terms, while, at the same time, regaining a military advantage on the ground with the help of the anti-Kabila alliance.

Indeed, since 28 August 2000, there appears to have been no convincing initiative on South Africa's part to keep up the head of steam generated in Arusha from June 1998 onwards, or to propose another negotiating framework underpinned by a robust methodology. Nelson Mandela has already delegated many of his duties as Facilitator to South African Vice-President Jacob Zuma.

In such conditions, the Burundian Government has a number of blocking tactics at its disposal. The Implementing and Monitoring Commission (IMC) could, of course, become the new negotiating forum between the parties; but its broad membership may turn it into a constant battleground, a micro-Arusha without Mandela. Besides, negotiations on the concerns of various parties and the rebels' late accession to the talks will further stall implementation. Burundi is likely to hang between war and peace as the agreement's implementation becomes an endless cycle of negotiations.

It is therefore of critical importance that international and regional pressure be applied on all warring parties and their foreign sponsors to negotiate a cease-fire, and to find a more discrete and sustainable framework for the continuation of talks. Moreover, if the momentum generated by the Arusha signing is to be maintained, it is essential that those parts of the agreement to which all the signatories are genuinely committed be implemented without delay. The Burundians should be encouraged to grasp the opportunity offered by this peace agreement to create the dynamic for change necessary to end the war.


To Facilitator Nelson Mandela

Appoint a professional facilitation team, with an open-ended mandate, to pursue negotiations.

Give an unequivocal interpretation of measures in agreed protocols for immediate implementation.

Expel from the transition institutions any political figure guilty of stirring up racial hatred or running militias.

Threaten to impose individual sanctions-including judicial prosecution, travel restrictions and freezing of assets-on those opposing implementation of the accord on both sides.

Encourage President Buyoya to start implementing the accord without delay, including by:

immediately offering defecting rebels the chance to reintegrate; immediately setting up a Committee of Enquiry on political prisoners and releasing all detainees with clean records as the enquiry progresses; taking disciplinary action against all soldiers guilty of atrocities or unwarranted use of force; creating a sufficiently safe environment to allow relief agencies to access displaced communities and alleviate their suffering, and opening humanitarian corridors for regrouped and stricken populations with assistance from charitable and relief organisations; taking the necessary measures, as provided for in the accord, to invite the United Nations immediately to deploy a peace-keeping force, so that it is present at the beginning of the transition; authorising the broadcasting, on national radio and television channels, of information and popular educational programs in Kirundi, explaining the peace accord and giving all transition candidates air time; running an information campaign in the armed forces, reassuring troops about the reasons for demobilisation; immediately arresting any political figure guilty of stirring up racial hatred or running militias. To Ugandan President Museveni, Leader of the Regional Initiative on Burundi

Invite President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe to attend the next regional summit on Burundi and ask him to convince the CNDD-FDD to join the negotiations.

Ask the Government of Tanzania to take all necessary measures to limit rebel activities on its territory while offering them, with the help of humanitarian agencies, the means to put down their weapons.

Require from the governments of the region the implementation of sanctions against rebels refusing to join the peace process and from the government of Burundi the immediate arrest of radical Tutsi leaders organising militias. To Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa

Take all necessary measures to stop the recruitment of Burundi rebels in the refugee camps of Kigoma and police the movement of rebel forces along The Tanzania/Burundi border and on Lake Tanganyika.

Welcome, in coordination with the humanitarian agencies, any rebel ready to put down his weapons and register them as primary beneficiaries of the reform of the Burundian army. To Donors, ahead of the 11 December Burundi Donor Conference in Paris

Support a professional negotiating team to continue the peace talks.

Support the implementation of all measures of the Arusha Agreement which can be implemented straight away.

Prepare a demobilisation plan to create incentives for the rebels to lay down their arms. Support efforts by the Facilitator and regional leaders to maintain pressure on the Government of Burundi by withholding aid as long as the aforementioned conditions are not satisfied.

Convince regional countries to apply all necessary pressure to push the rebels to join the peace talks.

Arusha/Nairobi/Brussels, 1 December 2000

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