Burundi: Buyoya in talks with rebel leaders

NAIROBI, 27 January (IRIN) - South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma, mediator of the Burundi peace process, facilitated meetings between Burundian President Pierre Buyoya and three rebel leaders on 25 and 26 January, news agencies reported. The meetings were held at the presidential guesthouse in the administrative capital, Pretoria.
The BBC reported that on 25 January, Buyoya held talks with Jean-Bosco Ndayikengurukiye, leader of a faction of the Force pour la defense de la democratie (FDD), and Alain Mugabarabona, leader of a splinter group of the Parti de liberation du peuple hutu-Forces nationales de liberation (Palipehutu-FNL). Buyoya and the two leaders signed a memorandum of understanding, which will see the two exiled leaders return to the Burundi capital, Bujumbura, on 10 February.

The meetings covered issues such as the return of former fighters and leaders to Burundi; the participation of the former armed movements in the transitional institutions of the state and parliament; and issues relating to disarmament, demobilisation and the building of a new inclusive security apparatus in the country.

The BBC also reported that a meeting between Buyoya and Pierre Nkurunziza, leader of the Conseil national pour la defense de la democratie-Force pour la defense de la democratie (CNDD-FDD), began on 26 January and continued through Monday. The two are discussing the implementation of a ceasefire agreement signed in December 2002.

Ndayikengurukiye and Mugabarabona agreed to a ceasefire accord in October 2002. The memorandum they signed at the weekend will allow the establishment of a joint ceasefire commission comprising six members each from the two rebel groups and the government, under the direction of a UN official.

AFP reported that the document provided for the re-grouping of the forces into groups of no more than 3,000. Both insurgencies command insignificant numbers of troops in the war pitting Hutu rebels against the Tutsi-dominated army, which has claimed more than 300,000 lives in the country since October 1993.

Ethiopia, Mozambique and South Africa have announced that they will send peacekeeping troops as part of an African mission to Burundi. Military planners from the UN, the African Union, and the South African National Defence Force have been meeting in Pretoria since 21 January to draw up a comprehensive plan.


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