The first tangible signs of peace emerged this month with the signing of a ceasefire with the CNDD-FDD. Optimism is however, frequently tempered by ongoing operations and clashes. The humanitarian and donor community have rallied to meet Burundi's unique challenges during this transition. The request to provide food aid to the rebels has provoked a constructive debate within the humanitarian community, itself exploring the limits of its own capacity within the framework of each organisation's humanitarian mandate. The response from the EC and GTZ (IS) (German Technical Cooperation - Governmental) has provided an alternative in what is an evolving and challenging political environment.
Ceasefire signed - deadline passes
At the 19th Summit of the Regional Peace Initiative held 1-2 December in Arusha (Tanzania) the NTG and CNDD-FDD signed a ceasefire in the early hours of Tuesday morning (3 December 2002).
On Monday 30 December the Burundi Foreign Minister, Terence Sinunguruza, issued a statement that announced the delay in the implementation of the ceasefire brokered on the 3rd. The Minister said implementation was contingent upon the arrival of an African Mission to monitor the application of the ceasefire accord and set up cantonment camps, and the establishment of a joint ceasefire commission. There are also remaining "military and political questions" that need to be discussed. "The Government is ready to start the debate at any stage," Sinunguruza said. He added that: "there was no doubt" that the African Mission would arrive in the early days of January 2003.
Amnesty International drive to end child abuse
Amnesty International (AI) this month launched a drive to end what it says are "serious human rights violations" in the treatment of detained children in Burundi. Highlighting the plight of eight detained children, the campaign urges people to write letters calling on the President and ministers of justice, defence, interior, and human rights to take "robust steps" to end torture and ill-treatment in detention centres.
As outlined in their December report: "Poverty, Isolation and Ill-Treatment: Juvenile Justice in Burundi", AI asserts that children are arrested arbitrarily and detained illegally, for prolonged periods, given unfair trials and handed down disproportionate sentences.
Recruitment of child soldiers continues in Burundi, says UN Report
At UN Headquarters in New York, Olara Otunnu, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, launched a report (S/2002/1299) on Tuesday 17 December, in which the Secretary-General provides for the Security Council's review of a list of parties in conflict situations who continue to recruit and use child soldiers. FNL-Palipehutu, CNDD-FDD and the NTG of Burundi are among the twenty-three named groups using child soldiers. "We urge the Security Council to actively monitor the countries named on the Secretary-General's list, and to demand progress or suffer sanctions", commented Jo Becker of the Human Rights Watch (USA).
EU Grants package to Burundi rebels
The European Commission announced in Brussels on Tuesday 24 December that it would finance food aid for armed groups awaiting demobilisation: "To contribute to the stabilisation of a fragile peace process in Burundi the European Commission has decided today to release food aid worth 500.000 EUR (covering the needs of 14 000 combatants for one month) as an exceptional measure to alleviate the conditions of members of the CNDD-FDD movement, an armed group to be demobilised shortly."
Mr Poul Nielson, Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Assistance said, "It is now important to fill the gap so as to avoid that arms of few thousand hungry men do not lead to violence and retribution, which risk jeopardising the peace process...." The statement continues: The aid will be channelled through the World Food Programme (WFP) and will be distributed by the German Technical Cooperation Agency (GTZ IS) which has the necessary logistics..."
CNDD-FDD assistance delivered
The first food distribution to 14,000 CNDD-FDD rebels (Pierre Nkurunziza) was conducted on Sunday 29 December by GTZ IS (Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit GmbH -- International Service) at Kayange site, Musigati Commune (Bubanza Province). A coordination meeting was held December 31 at Musigati to look at the appropriate ways to deliver the food. Attending the meeting: were representatives of the GoB, CNDD-FDD (Pierre Nkurunziza), US Embassy, EU, AU and GTZ IS. It was decided that food would be delivered three times a week. Another food delivery was expected on Tuesday 31 December at Karindo site in Nyabitsinda Commune (Ruyigi Province) but could not be conducted due to "military occupation", said CNDD-FDD Spokesperson, Mr Gélase Ndabirabe.
According to Captain Adolphe Manirakiza, Deputy Army Spokesperson, "The military occupied the site before the Musigati coordination meeting (31 December) deemed it a food distribution point". "The military are ready to move from the place provided there is a military patrol in the area", added Captain Adolphe Manirakiza.
UN Troop deployment
In an interview conducted by IRIN on Tuesday 10 December in the Capital, Bujumbura, the Representative of the African Union (AU) in Burundi, Ambassador Mamadou Bah, all but ruled out a multinational UN force in the near future: "Within the current phase, I don't think the UN would back the deployment of the force with its mandate".
As at 31st December UNHCR reported 31,421 facilitated returnees and 21,432 spontaneous returnees. The total number of returnees for 2002 is: 52,853.
Four hundred and fourteen (414) Rwandan refugees were voluntarily repatriated back to Rwanda on 11 December. UNHCR assisted with logistics.
HIV/AIDS Day was marked in Gitega Province on Sunday 8 December. As many as 8.3% of the population in Burundi is estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS. A workshop on municipal action against AIDS was also held in Bujumbura.
UNICEF support for child registration
Birth registration has not been possible for many families who are required to have their children registered within two-weeks after birth or suffer a fine. Because of the cost and impracticality for families, UNICEF has offered to assist the Ministry of Interior with the registration costs for 50,000 children. Already in Gitega Commune, comprising 8,000 unregistered children, 2,500 have been registered since October.
UN Security Council supports ceasefire
In a statement read on Wednesday 18 December by the Security Council (SC) President Alfonso Valdivieso (Colombia) the SC expressed its intention to support the immediate and full implementation of the Burundi Ceasefire Agreement of 3 December 2002. It requested the Secretary-General to study ways of responding positively and urgently to the request for the deployment of the African Mission provided for in that accord. The SC recalled that responsibility for the Burundi peace process lay primarily with the Burundian people.
DRC claim refuted
The Burundi Ministry of Defence issued a statement (23 December) denying categorically the presence of soldiers, or Burundi military hardware in the DRC. The Defence Spokesperson, Col. Augustin Nzabampema, invited MONUC (UN Observation Mission for DRC) to investigate the allegations made by Kinshasa.
21st Political party
SONOVI-Remesha (Non-Violent Society Party) was formed on December 30 2002 by Mr Déo Ndayishimiye.
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