Burundi: Rwasa expelled as FNL leader

News and Press Release
Originally published
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

BUJUMBURA, 12 October (IRIN) - Agathon Rwasa, leader of Burundi's remaining rebel group, the Forces nationales de liberation (FNL), has been expelled from the movement's leadership, a new FNL spokesman announced on Tuesday.

The spokesman, Sylvestre Niyungeko, who replaces Pasteur Habimana, told a local radio that Jean Bosco Sindayigaya had replaced Rwasa as the new FNL leader.

"The new leader was appointed at a meeting held on 8 October at Muyira," he said.

Muyira is in Kanyosha Commune, west of the province of Bujumbura Rural, an FNL stronghold.

Niyungeko said 29 FNL founding members and 93 other members decided Rwasa's removal at the National Council meeting. This follows the signing of a letter, by the same group, in September, calling on Rwasa to convene a national congress to determine the movement's direction, given the political changes in the country.

Burundi completed its electoral process in August, with the election of former rebel leader Pierre Nkurunziza as president.

On Tuesday, Niyungeko said the new FNL had "enough strength" to lead the movement as Rwasa no longer has any influential members.

Niyungeko added that Rwasa had fled Burundi after straying from the movement's objectives.

The new FNL leader, Sindayigaya, told another local radio that he chaired the council meeting that ousted Rwasa.

"Rwasa was not there as he went to Dar es Salaam and remained outside Burundi," he said. "The Burundian people will decide between me and Rwasa who will lead them to peace."

Niyungeko said the new FNL leadership would soon organise a congress to determine the new direction the movement would take. "Agathon Rwasa will also be invited to the meeting," he added.

However, he said the new leadership had not yet contacted the Burundian government, in a move to begin peace negotiations.

Nkurunziza has given the FNL up to the end of October to hold peace talks or face "serious consequences" which, however, he did not specify.

Announcing his ultimatum to the FNL last week, Nkurunziza said the movement had "one month to end hostilities or else it will get due treatment".

He also announced that a regional summit would be held under the Great Lakes Regional Peace Initiative for Burundi on 20 October to tackle the FNL issue. He did not say where the summit would be held.

Burundi's army spokesman, Maj Adolphe Manirakiza, said on Monday it was "still early" to declare a stand on the new FNL leadership. However, he said the government would welcome any moves aimed at boosting of peace in the country.

"The new FNL team will be recognised by its will to negotiate peace," Manirakiza said.

However, he said, "nothing has yet changed on the ground."

Tanzania's ambassador to Burundi, Francis Bernard Mndolwa, said on Monday his country would "recognise the new FNL leadership if the government of Burundi first recognised it and notified this to Tanzanian officials".

He said Rwasa and Habimana could either be in Tanzania or Kenya.

IRIN's efforts to contact Rwasa and Habimana over the new development failed.

The FNL has of late been infiltrating other provinces, besides its Bujumbura Rural stronghold.

The governor of the southern province of Makamba, Séverin Ndikuriyo, said FNL combatants were infiltrating the communes of Kayogoro, Vugizo, Nyanzalac and Kibago.

He said the movement was trying to "create a parallel administration" in the province. He was speaking after a meeting with local administration leaders on Monday.

During Nkurunziza's inauguration as president on 26 August, world leaders called on the FNL to stop fighting and to hold negotiations with the government.

The representative of the UN Secretary-General in Burundi, Carolyn McAskie, had earlier expressed a wish that the FNL issue would be resolved by the end of 2005.


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