Burundi

Burundi-South Africa: Rebel leaders to return home

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JOHANNESBURG, 12 February (IRIN) - Two rebel leaders accompanied by about 40 senior lieutenants will return to Burundi on Thursday to participate in the country's ceasefire process, the South African Press Association (SAPA) reported on Wednesday.
The announcement was made by South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma in the capital Pretoria after a meeting with the two leaders, Jean-Bosco Ndauikengurkiya, and Alain Mugabarabone, who head splinter groups of the Forces for the Defence of Democracy (FDD) and the Forces for National Liberation (FNL) respectively.

The two signed a ceasefire agreement with the Bujumbura government last October and will be returning from many years in exile, a South African government statement said.

Zuma said their return was an important development and a breakthrough in the ceasefire negotiations, adding that efforts to turn the ceasefire agreements into a reality were in the final stretch.

"People will see we seriously want to do something to get peace. We are going back to implement all agreements we signed," Mugabarabone told journalists at a press conference.

However, Zuma said he was still trying to persuade FNL rebels led by Agathon Rwasa to support the ceasefire.

But, he warned, "there is a time when you cannot continue calling, when the process in finally concluded".

Zuma also met Burundian President Pierre Buyoya and Pierre Nkurunziza, leader of the main rebel FDD group on Tuesday for further talks on the ceasefire.

He said the United Nations would soon make a decision on who would chair a Joint Ceasefire Commission, while arrangements to put together a peacekeeping force with troops from South Africa, Mozambique and Ethiopia were proceeding.

Meanwhile, a group of eight military observers from Togo, part of the first African Union (AU) mission of its kind, arrived on Wednesday in Burundi to monitor the ceasefire. At least 35 observers were expected from Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Togo and Gabon.

Since the ceasefire accord of December 2002, there have been regular reports of violations. The ceasefire has aimed to end a civil war which began in 1993 with the death of the first democratically elected Hutu president, and has claimed at least 300,000 lives.

A report released by the Global IDP Project, which is part of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said that at least 100,000 people have fled their homes since the beginning of 2003, fearing continued attacks and looting by rebels.

More details: http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=32245

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