Burundi: Suspension of talks threatens peace process

DAR ES SALAAM, 24 February (IRIN) - The suspension of ceasefire talks between Burundi's transitional government and the main Hutu rebel group is an "acutely negative" development that might lead to a "serious deadlock", an analyst told IRIN on Monday.
This latest move by Pierre Nkurunziza's faction of the Conseil national pour la defense de la democratie-Forces pour la defense de la democratie (CNDD-FDD) "will have a negative impact in Burundi, especially if you bear in mind that the ceasefire is being violated daily and is under threat of unravelling", Jan van Eck, a conflict analyst form the University of Pretoria, said.

Citing continued hostilities, the blockage of humanitarian aid and a lack of consultation over troops that are to be sent to Burundi, the CNDD-FDD issued a statement suspending talks with President Pierre Buyoya on Friday.

"In Burundi, this will lead many people to say that they [CNDD-FDD] had no intention of following the ceasefire in the first place," van Eck said. "It seems to reveal the complete lack of trust between the two sides and how each party is reading negative motives from the other."

Although CNDD-FDD said it was suspending talks because of the failure to implement the December 2002 ceasefire, van Eck warned that the rebels were trying to force the government to make serious concessions and to get the process restarted. "The facilitators might have no option but to open up the Arusha Accord," he said.

The tone of the CNDD-FDD's statement, he said, was similar to the messages coming from Agathon Rwasa's faction of the Forces nationales de la liberation (FNL), the only other Hutu group that is yet to sign a ceasefire with the government.

"The absence of Rwasa is a big obstacle to Nkurunziza," van Eck added. "Many of the CNDD - FDD see FNL as their mother body and they don't want to be accused of selling out to the Tutsis, in the same way that they have accused FRODEBU of having done."

Although the South African facilitators say the mediator, Deputy President Jacob Zuma, has not been officially informed of the rebels' latest move, the CNDD-FDD issued a detailed statement explaining their temporary withdrawal from the talks.

They accused Buyoya of failing to implement any agreement that he had signed, taking advantage of the lack of a foreign force protecting the ceasefire to launch his own attacks, and of blocking aid to the CNDD-FDD.

Meanwhile, referring to the offer of peacekeeping troops form South Africa, Ethiopia and Mozambique, CNDD-FDD said, "They should be approved by both leaders during on-going negotiations before they are deployed in Burundi; otherwise CNDD-FDD will consider them as peace disrupters in Burundi."


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