UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
BURUNDI: Government, rebel group agree to end hostilities
DAR ES SALAAM, 16 May 2005 (IRIN) - Burundian President Domitien Ndayizeye and Agathon Rwasa, the leader of the country's remaining rebel group, the Forces nationales de libération (FNL), agreed on Sunday to end hostilities and to work for lasting and sustainable peace in the country.
"We have agreed to end hostilities immediately," Ndayizeye said in Tanzania's commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, shortly after signing the agreement with Rwasa. "Technical committees of the two parties are going to be picked as soon as possible so that they start working out modalities for negotiations and implementation of the ceasefire."
He added, "We have agreed that detailed negotiations by technical teams are to start within a month."
Tanzania's foreign minister, Jakaya Kikwete, as well as senior officials of the UN and the African Union (AU) witnessed the signing of the agreement late on Sunday in Dar es Salaam, after at least 16 hours of talks.
Rwasa reiterated his group's commitment to "sincere and transparent" negotiations to bring about lasting peace in Burundi.
"The [peace] train has left the station and if queries arise in the course of the voyage, we will discuss them and find a solution," Rwasa said.
He called upon FNL fighters in Burundi to exercise discipline.
Ndayizeye and Rwasa had earlier exchanged signed documents and embraced after addressing a joint news conference. They had also held preliminary talks at State House, the official residence of Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa.
A civil war between the minority Tutsi army and rebels from the majority Hutu community began in October 1993. The conflict has claimed at least 300,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.
Rwasa, whose FNL is active mainly in the province of Bujumbura Rural, which surrounds the capital city of Bujumbura, had been in Dar es Salaam since the end of April.
If the negotiations between the FNL and the transitional government succeed, the FNL would join six other rebel movements that have signed ceasefire agreements and have been incorporated into transitional institutions.
Rwasa said the talks would not affect Burundi's electoral process, as his group would not take part in the series of elections planned from June to August.
"Our priority is to ceasefire and lasting peace in Burundi," he said.
Ndayizeye and Rwasa also said the negotiations between FNL and the government would proceed without the involvement of South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma, the facilitator of Burundi's peace process, or any other outsider.
"But if we are stuck somewhere, we will ask for assistance from the region," Rwasa said.
Asked if there was any need to bring representatives of the country's former main rebel groups, the Conseil national pour la défense de la démocratie-Forces pour la défense de la démocratie (CNDD-FDD) into the negotiations, Ndayizeye said the CNDD-FDD was now part and parcel of the interim government and was, thus, effectively represented.
Previous efforts to bring the FNL and Burundi's transitional government together, in the Netherlands in January 2003 and in Nairobi in November 2003, failed.
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