Burundi: 2002 year-ender - Peace is within reach

NAIROBI, 17 January (IRIN) - A ceasefire agreement between Burundi's transitional government and Pierre Nkurunziza's faction of the Conseil national pour la defense de la democratie-Forces pour la defense de la democratie (CNDD-FDD) failed to come into force on 30 December 2002, because an African mission to monitor its application failed to arrive. The mission was also to have set up cantonment camps for the former rebels and establish a ceasefire commission.
In a communique released on Tuesday from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, the African Union's (AU) Central Organ of the of the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution called for the early deployment of AU observers to facilitate communication between the ceasefire parties. Their task, the Central Organ said, would be to help reduce "the risk of violations of the truce, and carry out any other tasks as shall be agreed with the parties" to build among them confidence.

Ethiopia, Mozambique and South Africa have pledged troops on a temporary basis until a UN peacekeeping force can be deployed, but the AU must first find the money.

All but one of the factions of Burundi's two main rebel groups, Agathon Rwasa's wing of the Parti de liberation du peuple hutu-Forces nationales de liberation (Palipehutu-FNL), signed the ceasefire accord. All along, his faction has been the most recalcitrant and, analysts said, his position outside the peace umbrella threatened the process.

"How can you expect Burundian forces to go into defensive positions if they are attacked by FNL?" Henry Boschoff, an analyst with the Institute of Security Studies in the South African administrative capital, Pretoria, told IRIN on Wednesday.

A regional summit on 7 October 2002 gave all rebel groups 30 days to sign the ceasefire document or face the consequences. Now that the deadline has expired, an appropriate response to the FNL's defiance remains undetermined. Uncertainty persists as to when the African force will arrive. Zuma wanted troops deployed before the end of January but Boschoff said this would not be possible.

"From the AU approving the mission and mandate, you need to appoint a force commander, send an evaluation team, draw up an operation plan and then draw up a force," he said. "I've spoken to the military planning guys [in South Africa] and they knew nothing about a [proposed] deployment and have no political guidance."

In 2002, the first glimmer of hope for peace appeared 20 August when talks began in earnest in the Tanzanian commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, on a draft ceasefire accord between the transitional government and Jean-Bosco Ndayikengurukiye, leader of the smaller of two CNDD-FDD factions. At the adjournment of the negotiations six days later, the parties signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU), the interpretation of which remains unclear.

Protesting that the MOU was not all-inclusive, four Burundi movements demanded on 8 September inclusion in all ceasefire talks. The statement to this effect was issued by the chairmen of the groups - Leonard Nyangoma of the CNDD, Joseph Karumba of the Front pour la liberation nationale, Etienne Karatasi of the Palipehutu, and Cossan Kabura of the FNL.

Hopes for peace rose when on 7 October the smaller factions of both Hutu groups - Ndayikengurukiye's CNDD-FDD and Alain Mugabarabona's Palipehutu-FNL - formalised a ceasefire deal at a regional summit. Two remaining factions were given 30 days to comply or face the consequences.

This development seemed to yield an immediate "peace" dividend. On 9 October, the IMF approved an "immediate available" credit of US $13 million in emergency post-conflict aid to support the government's reconstruction and economic recovery programme. In an announcement on 23 October, the AU gave $200,000 in support of the ceasefire negotiations.

This grant came as the second phase of the ceasefire negotiations resumed on 29 October in Dar es Salaam between Burundian officials and Nkurunziza's CNDD-FDD faction. Acting under the facilitation of South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma, Nkurunziza's faction shifted from insisting on a "cessation of hostilities" as a condition for ceasefire talks, to going into direct ceasefire negotiations.

On 3 December, both parties signed the ceasefire protocol. They appear to have compromised over the outstanding military and political issues that had blocked the talks and threatened the entire peace process. It seems that a similar compromise may be needed to bring the sole remaining group into the fold. This will be the challenge for negotiators this year.


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