Burundi rebels rejoin ceasefire team in peace boost

BUJUMBURA, May 28 (Reuters) - Burundi's last remaining rebel group gave a boost to peace prospects in the tiny central African nation on Monday by returning to a team monitoring a truce after hearing reassurances its grievances would be heard.

The Forces for National Liberation (FNL) last month quit the team monitoring a ceasefire signed in September, saying government forces had not withdrawn from FNL-controlled areas as promised in the agreement.

"We decided to join again the ceasefire monitoring team, because the South African mediator promised us that FNL leader Agathon Rwasa and President (Pierre) Nkurunziza will meet soon to discuss the issues raised by our movement," said Jacques Bigirimana, spokesman for the Hutu FNL.

The agreement between Nkurunziza and the FNL stirred hopes of lasting peace in Burundi, where some 300,000 people have died in conflict since 1993. But wrangling over the deal has prevented the return of stability to the landlocked, coffee-growing nation of 7 million.

The FNL want new negotiations on what roles they would expect to play in the armed forces and government institutions. Another key demand is the release of FNL political and war prisoners, said Brigadier General Mbulelo Ephraim Phako, representative of the South African mediator in Bujumbura, Charles Nqakula.


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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