NAIROBI, 2 March (IRIN) - As the
plenary sessions of the resumed Arusha peace talks drew to an end last
week, there was intense speculation regarding the attendance of rebel leader,
Jean-Bosco Ndayikengurukiye, who heads the Conseil national pour la defense
de la democratie-Forces de defense pour la democratie (CNDD-FDD).
Previously excluded from the Arusha process under the facilitation of former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere, the new mediation team of ex-South African president Nelson Mandela is of the belief that the talks should be all-inclusive.
However, as delegates gathered in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha, speculation was put to rest - the CNDD-FDD leader was nowhere to be seen. In his opening speech, Nelson Mandela avoided going into details but said there was a general view that the CNDD-FDD, along with another previously excluded rebel group - Forces nationales de liberation (FNL) - should take part. Many observers believe a weakness of the Nyerere facilitation was that the talks were not all-inclusive and excluded the main rebel fighting forces in Burundi.
Different theories have emerged about Ndayikengurikiye's absence in Arusha. CNDD-FDD spokesman Jerome Ndiho told IRIN simply that the group had not been officially invited to the talks, although this was disputed by Judge Mark Bomani, a senior member of the facilitation team. He said the South African government had sent a plane to Lubumbashi in DRC to collect Ndayikengurikiye, but he failed to show up.
Ndayikengurikiye's brother, Augustin
Nzojibwami who leads the internal wing of the opposition FRODEBU party,
confirmed to IRIN that the CNDD-FDD leader was based in Lubumbashi, "where
his wife goes to university".
However, some regional analysts point to the FDD's involvement in the DRC war and hence President Laurent-Desire Kabila's influence over Ndayikengurikiye. "To get to Jean-Bosco, you need the cooperation of the Congolese government," a member of the facilitation team told IRIN.
Observers believe Ndayikengurikiye has little independence from Kabila. They note some FDD forces are fighting alongside Kabila's army, while others are based inside Burundi itself. "If Jean-Bosco goes to Arusha, and the peace talks don't deliver, he risks losing everything," one analyst pointed out. Some FDD members are reported to be defecting to the rival CNDD faction, led by Leonard Nyangoma, because they want to be part of the process. "Maybe he [Jean-Bosco] doesn't want to show his weakness," the analyst added.
Both extremes in the Burundi peace talks believe FDD's absence will not affect the process. "He [Jean-Bosco] controls nothing and nobody," said Leonce Ndarubagiye of the rival CNDD faction. "[Speculation over] his presence is being used as an excuse to block the negotiations." Mathias Hitimana, who leads the pro-Tutsi monarchist PRP believes that if all parties to the negotiations reach an agreement they can easily "isolate" Ndayikenguriukiye.
However, the Burundi government strongly believes CNDD-FDD should be part of the negotiations. "The FDD is the most active on the ground and its involvement should be taken seriously when one talks about a ceasefire accord," Burundi's Peace Process Minister Ambroise Niyonsaba told IRIN.
Fabienne Hara of the Brussels-based think-tank, International Crisis Group (ICG), says that whatever Ndayikengurikiye's strengths and weaknesses, "he can act as an exit strategy for some parties who are against the talks". "The region should put pressure on Kabila and his allies to give passage to the talks so that there is no future threat to the peace process," she told IRIN.
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