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SLUG: 2-317803 Burundi / Zuma (L-O)









HEADLINE: South African Mediator Leaves Burundi

INTRO: South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma is leaving Burundi after failing to convince the country's Tutsi political parties to accept his blueprint for ending Burundi's 11-year civil war. Correspondent Alisha Ryu has details from our East Africa Bureau in Nairobi.

TEXT: Jacob Zuma arrived Monday in the Burundian capital, Bujumbura, hoping to revive ethnic power-sharing talks that broke down last week in Pretoria.

Last week talks ended after Burundi's main Tutsi minority party, UPRONA, rejected Mr. Zuma's plan to split power 50-50 between ethnic Hutus and Tutsis in the Senate and a 60-40 split between Hutus and Tutsis in the National Assembly.

But the change of venue did little to convince UPRONA and several other Tutsi parties involved in the talks that Mr. Zuma's proposals could work. They walked out of a meeting late Monday, accusing the South African leader of showing bias toward Burundi's Hutu majority.

Tutsi politicians argue the mediator's plan does not adequately guarantee that Tutsis will continue to exercise political power in Burundi. Tutsis have led the country almost uninterrupted since independence in 1962, even though they make up just 14 percent of the population.

The leader of the Tutsi political party, Rally for Democracy and Economic and Social Development, Joseph Nzeimana, says Mr. Zuma refused to alter the proposals, saying the majority of Burundians were satisfied with the power-sharing arrangement.

The South African mediator then asked the Tutsi parties to meet with Hutus to work out a compromise. But Mr. Nzeimana says the request is unacceptable.


"How can we meet them? They are very happy with the resolution presented in Pretoria, which is not correct for Tutsis. We are not happy so how can we talk with them? You cannot be a facilitator and show that you are helping just one party and not the other one."

/// END ACT ///

Mr. Zuma says he respects the difference of views but denies he has shown bias.

The lingering dispute has raised concern that national elections that are supposed to be held at the end of October could be postponed indefinitely.

Four-years ago, a peace deal was signed in Arusha, Tanzania that provided for the creation of a three-year transitional government. That government is to hand over power to an elected one this year. But without full Tutsi participation in the elections, few people in Burundi believe lasting peace can be achieved.

/// REST OPT /// Burundi has been struggling to emerge from more than a decade of ethnic conflict between the Tutsis and the Hutus that has claimed more than 300-thousand lives. All but one of Burundi's Hutu rebel groups are now partners in the transitional government. (SIGNED)


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