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Burundi Civil War

Although there are no reliable data, it is estimated that about 85 percent of the population is Hutu, and 15 percent is Tutsi. A third group, the Twa, constitutes less than one percent. These groups are usually called "ethnic groups" although they share the same culture, history and language (a language of the Bantu family, Kirundi, almost identical to the one spoken in Rwanda), and cannot be distinguished with any accuracy, even by the Burundians themselves, through physical or other characteristics. A person belongs to the same ethnic group as his or her father. Intermarriage between Hutus and Tutsis has traditionally been common.

Burundi has been engaged in a civil war marked by ethnic violence, which included fighting between the Tutsi-dominated army and armed Hutu rebel groups. The fighting caused widespread civilian casualties since the killing of democratically elected president Melchior Ndadaye in October 1993.

Burundi is poor and densely populated, with over four-fifths of the population engaged in subsistence agriculture. The small modern sector, largely based on the export of coffee and tea, has been damaged by an economic embargo imposed by neighboring states in 1996. The ongoing violence since 1993 has caused severe economic disruption and dislocation. Large numbers of internally displaced persons have been unable to produce their own food crops and largely depend on international humanitarian assistance.

The principal national problem continues to be ethnic conflict between the majority Hutus and the minority Tutsis. The Tutsis historically have held power and still control the military forces; they dominate educated society. Ethnic discrimination against Hutus, who constitute an estimated 85 percent of the population, affects every facet of society, but most strikingly higher education and certain branches of the Government such as the armed services and the judicial system. The President and the Tutsi-dominated army retain their dominance in decision-making and have not initiated genuine power sharing.

Since October 1993 approximately 200,000 persons have been killed in ethnic violence. Approximately 900 persons per month were killed during the first 9 months of 1998. According to an international human rights organization, the number of civilians killed during 1998 was about the same as in 1997.

President Sylvestre Ntibantunganya was overthrown in a military coup in July 1996. The coup deposed president Ntibantunganya, a Hutu, and replaced him with Major Buyoya, a Tutsi. The regime headed by self-proclaimed interim President, Major Pierre Buyoya, abrogated the 1992 Constitution and the 1994 Convention of Government. Buyoya holds power in conjunction with the Tutsi-dominated establishment forces. The regime promulgated a decree in September 1996 that replaced the Constitution during the so­called Transition Period. In April multiparty peace talks resumed in Arusha, Tanzania. On June 4, in conformity with an agreement between the Buyoya regime and the opposition-dominated National Assembly, the National Assembly adopted a Transitional Constitutional Act and a transitional political platform. The Transitional Constitutional Act supersedes the 1996 decree and the 1992 Constitution.

Travel is possible in many parts of the country. However, armed rebel activity, particularly in parts of Bubanza, Bujumbura Rural, Bururi, Cibitoke, and Makamba provinces, makes travel perilous.

Over 550,000 citizens, or 9 percent of the population, have been displaced, some for as long as 6 years. For those in the camps for internally displaced persons, some farming is possible, although only with the permission of the military authorities. Serious health, water, and malnutrition problems exist in many camps. Persons in the hills without a camp pass are considered to be rebels and were killed or wounded by government soldiers, according to a number of sources. Hutu rebels sometimes kill Hutus who remain outside the camps, according to an international human rights organization.

The rebel groups have issued periodic warning statements to foreigners. With the prospect of implementation of the Lusaka ceasefire accord in neighbouring DRC, Burundian rebels - accompanied by Rwandan Interahamwe militia and ex-FAR - have been filtering back into Burundi. Unrest is reported to be creeping back in the northern provinces of Cibitoke and Bubanza, bordering DRC, while the southern and eastern provinces of Rutana, Ruyigi, Nyanza Lac and Makamba have always been volatile due to rebel infiltrations from Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Burundi's relations with its neighbors have often been affected by security concerns. Hundreds of thousands of Burundian refugees have at various times crossed to neighboring Rwanda, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Hundreds of thousands of Burundians are in neighboring countries as a result of the ongoing civil war. Most of them, more than 340,000 since 1993, are in Tanzania. Some Burundian rebel groups have used neighboring countries as bases for insurgent activities. The 1993 embargo placed on Burundi by regional states negatively impacted its diplomatic relations with its neighbors; relations have improved since the 1999 suspesion of these sanctions.

The Government of Burundi continued the forced relocation of its citizens into regroupment camps in response to rebel attacks on civilian populations. By the end of September 1999, nearly 300,000 people in Bujumbura Rural province had been rounded up and forcibly moved into camps by the armed forces of Burundi in response to rebel attacks. These regroupment camps remain in place and others are reportedly being established. These camps are breeding grounds not only for disease and death but also for long-term resentment. Security conditions remain poor, and humanitarian workers have limited access to the camps because the workers' safety cannot be guaranteed, as evidenced by the 12 October 1999 killing of nine people on a UN mission.

In June 1998, Buyoya promulgated a transitional constitution and announced a partnership between the government and the opposition-led National Assembly. After Facilitator Julius Nyerere's death in October 1999, the regional leaders appointed Nelson Mandela as Facilitator of the Arusha peace process. Under Mandela the faltering peace process was revived and lead to the signing of the Arusha Accords in August 2000 by representatives of the principal Hutu (G-7) and Tutsi (G-10) political parties, the Government and the National Assembly. However, the FDD and FNL armed factions of the CNDD and Palipehutu G-7 parties refused to accept the Arusha Accords and the armed rebellion continued. In November 2001, a 3-year transitional government was established under the leadership of Pierre Buyoya (representing the G-10) as transitional president and Domitien Nadayizeye (representing the G-7) as transitional vice president for an initial period of 18 months. At the end of this period, Mr. Ndayizeye or another G-7 designee was to assume the presidency for 18 months and a G-10 representative the vice presidency. While the establishment of a transitional government represented significant progress toward representative government and elections, failure to reach agreement with the rebel factions on an end to the fighting delayed implementation of military reform and other social and political measures provided for by the Arusha Accords.

In December of 2001 the NLF (National Liberation Front) stepped up attacks on Bujumbura. The government responded by killing 500 rebels in an attack against the NLF stronghold. Progress toward the goals set in 2001 was achieved when Jean Minani was elected president of the transitional national assembly. However, in July of 2002 the fighting between Hutu rebels and the Burundi government escalated. Then in December of the same year, a cease-fire agreement was signed and talks took place in Tanzania. An agreement emerged from the talks that incorporated the Hutu rebels into the new national army.

Fighting again broke out in January of 2003 between the Hutu rebels and the goverment, the fighting abated, and in April of 2003 Domitien Ndayizeye became the new president, succeeding Pierre Buyoya.

By mid-July 2003 16 of Burundi's 17 provinces were subjected to sporadic fighting, looting and armed banditry. Preliminary reports from the UN Office in Burundi showed that 170 people had been killed and between 6,000 and 7,000 civilians displaced since rebels began attacking the capital, Bujumbura, from 7 July.

Burundi President Domitien Ndayizeye and the leader of the main Hutu rebel movement signed a peace accord in Dar es Salaam on 16 November 2003, while a smaller rebel group in the central African country was given three months to open talks or face consequences. Under the peace agreement, the the Forces for the Defense of Democracy faction becomes a political party and is expected to have representation in the country's government by the end of November 2003. The rebel Hutu fighters are to be integrated into Burundi's armed forces. There are also provisions to grant temporary immunity to both sides from prosecution. While Burundi's government is led by a Hutu president, the army is dominated by Tutsis. More than 80-percent of Burundi's population are Hutus.

In late November 2003 a spokesman for the National Liberation Forces, Pasteur Habimana, said his Hutu rebels will not join Burundi's peace process unless they are allowed to negotiate with Tutsis. The second largest Hutu rebel group, did not sign onto the peace agreement between Burundi's government and the leading Hutu rebels, the Forces for the Defense of Democracy. Mr. Habimana said those who love Burundi should call the Tutsis to his group so that they can open up and confess the wrongs they have done against Hutus. Conspicuously absent from the peace negotiations was Mr. Habimana's group, which has been responsible for a number of attacks in the country's capital, Bujumbura, as recently as the beginning of the month. The peace accord will have little effect if the National Liberation Forces continue to wage war.

Rebels who were once fighting Burundi's government soldiers were, as of 07 January 2004, fighting side-by-side with them. Under terms of a peace agreement, the Burundi government and the rebel Forces for the Defense of Democracy, or FDD, signed late in 2003, the Hutu rebels were integrated into the national army. In his New Year's Day speech, President Domitien Ndayizeye announced that by January 7th, 40 percent of the army's leadership will be made up of former FDD rebels. The FDD welcomed the move as a crucial step for the beginnings of a new army.

On 21 April 2004, at the end of a four-day meeting in the Tanzanian town of Kigoma, the Burundian rebel Forces nationales de liberation (FNL) faction led by Agathon Rwasa announced that it had decided to suspend hostilities against the transitional government of Burundi. Burundi's communication minister and government spokesman, Onesime Nduwimana, told reporters in the capital, Bujumbura, that there would be no military offensive by government forces if Rwasa's group stopped attacks.

Following consultations with the Regional Initiative, the United Nations, and international partners, the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania held meetings with a delegation from FNL (Rwasa) in Dar es Salaam from 4 to 12 April 2005. At the conclusion of the meetings, the FNL delegation issued a statement in which it expressed the armed group's intention to negotiate with the Government of Burundi, cease hostilities, and provide a written explanation for its involvement in the Gatumba massacre of 13 August 2004.

Despite continuing, and sometimes worrying, delays leading to a second extension of the transition period, the Burundian parties, with the support of the international community, have continued to advance on the path of peace.

There were several developments during early 2005, including the successful conduct of the referendum on a post-transition constitution; the promulgation of the electoral code and communal law and announcement of a new electoral calendar; progress towards disarmament, demobilization and reintegration and security sector reform; and positive signs that the FNL (Rwasa) armed group may finally join the peace process.

Despite two postponements, the referendum on the post-transition Constitution was successfully conducted without major incident on 28 February 2005. Of the 3.3 million registered voters, 92.4 per cent, or 2,894,372 Burundians, exercised their right to vote for the first time since 1994, and about 90.1 per cent of voters endorsed the Constitution.

The people of Burundi conducted a peaceful, orderly and dignified exercise of their democratic right to vote in the 04 July 2005 legislative elections. The Government of Burundi and the Independent National Electoral Commission conducted a technically-sound elections carried out in an atmosphere of peace and security.

Burundi's President Domitien Ndayizeye has conceded defeat following his party's loss in parliamentary elections to a former Hutu rebel group. President Ndayizeye urged all parties Wednesday, to accept the will of the people. With all the votes counted, the former Hutu rebels, the Forces for the Defense of Democracy, FDD, came in first with 58 percent. Ndayizeye's ruling Hutu party, Front for Democracy in Burundi, was a distant second, and a party of ethnic minority Tutsis, UPRONA, came in third.

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