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Burundi: Breaking the Deadlock, The Urgent Need For A New Negotiating Framework

 PDF version of Burundi: Breaking the Deadlock, The Urgent Need For A New Negotiating Framework Click here to view the full report as a PDF file in A4 format.
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The attempted coup d'etat by a group of young army officers against President Pierre Buyoya on 18 April 2001 was a grave warning about the peace process in Burundi. More than eight months after its signing, in August 2000, the Arusha peace accord is at an impasse. Questions that were unresolved at the time have still not been dealt with and the conditions for the accord's implementation have not improved. There is no cease-fire in sight between the army and rebel groups, and the leadership of transition envisaged at Arusha has still not been chosen. Moreover, the Implementation and Monitoring Committee (IMC) seems to be ineffective and incapable of fulfilling its mission.

Nelson Mandela, in spite of receiving the support of regional heads of state and the international community, has failed persuade the rebel groups to renounce violence and accept the terms of the Arusha accord. Far from weakening their position, the death of Laurent Kabila appears to have convinced the rebels to go ahead with their long-planned offensive against Burundi, which remains the weakest link in the anti-Kinshasa alliance. From a situation of ��Neither War nor Peace�� , Burundi is sliding once again towards widespread civil war. Both the army and the rebels are now preparing for a major confrontation.

In the mean time, the political drama continues, with neither of the proposed leadership scenarios of the current president/vice president or ex-interior minister/ex-secretary-general of FRODEBU permitting an impartial or satisfactory implementation of the peace accord. The first scenario is nothing but a dangerous continuation of the status quo, demonstrating the regime��s reluctance to relinquish power, while the second may reflect a real change of head of state, but would give legitimacy to another "institutional deadlock".

With security deteriorating, a humanitarian catastrophe underway, and political fragmentation in both camps, the limited achievements of the Arusha accord are shrivelling to nothing. Although part of the responsibility for the obstruction of the peace process lies with President Buyoya, he is becoming the major target of resentment and faces the real risk of assassination. Such an event would undoubtedly provoke a reckoning between political leaders, and renewed ethnic violence.

It would be counterproductive to press for the implementation of an empty accord. However, the status quo is just as dangerous and must not be allowed to continue, as the war option becomes more likely. A radical change in the management of the peace process is therefore needed.

Nelson Mandela should offer Pierre Buyoya an honourable exit strategy, but must also obtain assurances that the current political-military power structures will be dismantled. A power-sharing agreement should be negotiated, but only between UPRONA (Union for National Progress) and FRODEBU (Front for Democracy in Burundi). All other small political parties should be excluded from these initial negotiations. The agreement should then be sealed with the drafting of a transitional constitution, to decrease the risk of manipulation of the institutions during the transition period. The format of the IMC should also be revised.

A cease-fire will never be established until the peace processes of Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are harmonised, especially in relation to the so-called ��negative forces��, and as long as DRC President Joseph Kabila and Tanzania��s President Benjamin Mkapa do not engage personally in the negotiations. An agreement to provide incentives to those who stop fighting, and sanctions against those who refuse, should be imposed by Burundi's donors.

Beyond the region, Nelson Mandela should build a united international position for the resolution of the conflict. Burundi should not be subjected to competition between English and French speaking mediators. Nor should leaders of the PALIPEHUTU-FNL be able to go to Pretoria while CNDD-FDD leaders meet Burundi��s representatives in Gabon��s capital Libreville to negotiate identical issues of a cease-fire and the reform of the armed forces.



1. Clarify mediation responsibilities between Libreville and Pretoria. President Mandela could negotiate the departure of Pierre Buyoya while South African Vice President Zuma could finalise an agreement on power-sharing between UPRONA and FRODEBU. President Omar Bongo of Gabon could take responsibility for cease-fire negotiations with the FDD and FNL. This redistribution of tasks should be ratified by the members of the Regional Initiative for Burundi.

2. Recruit an international team of professional mediators to work full time on Burundi. Appoint an official to liaise with the Lusaka peace process (DRC).

3. In South Africa, bring together the international actors involved in the peace process, (members of the Regional Initiative on Burundi, President Bongo of Gabon, President Kabila of DRC, President Mugabe of Zimbabwe, members of the UN Security Council, a representative of the UN Secretary General, and officials from Belgium) to discuss the creation of a united front and a common strategy to deal with the Burundi crisis.

4. Invite Pierre Buyoya to South Africa immediately to negotiate the terms of his political departure. These terms should then be presented to the UNSC, and endorsed by the international community. If Buyoya refuses, he should be threatened with personal sanctions (freezing of overseas assets, legal action, visa restrictions etc). Seek a UNSC resolution calling on member states to back the sanctions.

5. Once guarantees have been obtained for the departure of Buyoya, a transitional team of president and vice president can be named. Domitien Ndayizeye should be named transitional vice president on condition that talks on power-sharing between UPRONA and FRODEBU succeed and a transitional constitution is drafted.

6. Hold private meetings with UPRONA and FRODEBU on the drafting of a transitional constitution, and review the operation of the CSAA. The results of these talks should constitute the Pretoria Accord, which will complement the Arusha accord.

7. Submit the revised peace project, in the form of the Pretoria accord, to the 19 signatories of the Arusha accord for ratification. Those who refuse should be excluded from the institutions of transition.

8. Demand an immediate truce simultaneously from Jean-Bosco Ndayikengurukiye, Agathon Rwasa and Pierre Buyoya, and their swift engagement in unconditional cease-fire negotiations and reform of the security forces. The result of these talks should constitute the Libreville Accord, to complement those of Arusha and Pretoria.

9. Facilitate contact between FRODEBU, CNDD and FROLINA and those combatants who wish to disarm so that they will obtain a mandate; bring together the three parties as well as the Burundian government to open negotiations on the reform of the security forces. The result of these negotiations will constitute Protocol II of the Pretoria Accord, to be ratified in the same way as the Libreville Accord.

10. Seek assistance from the government of Tanzania to establish a system of receiving, recording and identifying rebel forces who wish to lay down their arms. They will be given priority in the reform of the armed forces and the program of reintegration and should be able to choose their own representative to the Libreville talks.


11. Urge the Secretary General to be actively involved in the implementation of the peace process, including providing regular reports to the Security Council and eventually signing the Pretoria and Libreville Accords as an observer.

12. Pass a resolution urging the Secretariat to begin the process of securing stand-by arrangements with troop contributors for the deployment of a peace keeping force within 30 days of the signing of the new peace accords. The mandate of such a force could include assistance to governments in monitoring Burundi's borders on Lake Tanganyka, in the Rusizi plain and near the refugee camps in Tanzania. Expand MONUC's mandate to assist border monitoring between DRC and Burundi.

13. Press President Joseph Kabila to immediately and unconditionally end support to the Burundi Hutu rebel groups.

14. If the leaders of the FDD and FNL refuse to declare a truce and participate in unconditional cease-fire negotiations and reform of the security forces, put in place the following measures:

Ask all the signatories to the Arusha peace accord to condemn those rebels who refuse to negotiate; officially declare them to be called ��negative forces.�� Impose UN sanctions on those rebel forces and their supporters with appropriate monitoring and reporting mechanisms.

With the support of the international community, the governments of Tanzania and DRC, put in place an agreed plan to neutralise and disarm these Burundian rebel forces in co-ordination with the Joint Military Commission plan, established under the Lusaka Agreement.


15. Begin to release funds promised at the December 2000 conference in Paris to put the economy back on a productive footing, and assist the health and education sectors, with special attention to activities focusing on decentralisation.

16. Put in place strict controls on the use of aid to avoid its misappropriation, and tie conditions for payments to the dismantling of the private interests at the heart of power in the political-military oligarchy.

Brussels/ Nairobi, 14 May 2001

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