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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Thursday 15 September 2005

BURUNDI: Rebels willing to negotiate peace, but only with ethnic leaders

BUJUMBURA, 15 Sep 2005 (IRIN) - The Libération du peuple Hutu-front national de libération (FNL), Burundi's last remaining rebel group, said on Wednesday it did not recognise the legitimacy of the new government and would only negotiate peace with representatives of the country's three ethnic groups.

"The FNL is willing to negotiate," Pasteur Habimana, the FNL spokesman, said from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

He said, however, that the international community would have to act as guarantor during such negotiations which, would have to be with the representatives of the Hutu, Tutsi and Twa ethnic groups. Habimana said even if the FNL's demands were not met it would not restart the war.

"The armed conflict is now over," he said.

He denied that the FNL still was initiating strikes against the army. "We are now just defending ourselves against attacks by the army," he said.

The army blames the FNL for sporadic fighting before and after the presidential elections in August. On Tuesday, army spokesman Maj Adolphe Manirakiza said that last week the FNL had attacked several locations around the nation's capital, Bujumbura, killing one person and wounding another.

On Wednesday, the governor of the northern province of Bubanza, Nzobonimpa Manassé, said the FNL rebels had been fighting government troops there since Saturday.

Despite the FNL's refusal to recognise the government, Burundi's newly elected president, Pierre Nkurunziza, said on Saturday that his government would do its utmost to negotiate peace with the rebel movement.

"We will set up a government commission in the near future, comprising four army officers and four political leaders, which will prepare negotiations as soon as possible," he said.

However, Habimana said the FNL would not negotiate with any team representing the new government, as "the elections were not conducted in compliance with the 2002 Arusha peace agreement." He also said the FNL was not in contact with any leading government officials or with any of the opposition parties.

"We are the only group in Burundi that still believes in truth and justice," he said.

Local political commentators said the FNL was taking an isolationist, hardline position so that when the group eventually negotiates it could do so from a position of strength.

"By saying the new government is illegitimate, the FNL wants to be considered on the same footing as the government," Pancrace Cimpaye, the former government's spokesman, said.

The special representative of the UN Secretary-General in Burundi, Carolyn McAskie, who has held numerous talks with FNL leaders, expressed frustration last week with the movement's go-slow approach to peace.

UN News reported on Wednesday that a group of regional leaders from neighbouring countries have met with the UN Secretary-General and international donors in New York at the World Summit, which began on Monday, to request support to Burundi's new government in its efforts to include the FNL in the peace process.

The group also called on the FNL "to cease hostilities immediately".

A less radical wing of the FNL may be forming under the leadership of the group’s vice-chairman, Jean Bosco Sindayigaya. Last week, he called for a more conciliatory approach to peace negotiations with the government.

"There is no more reason to continue fighting as the injustice to the Hutu people is being settled," he said on local radio.

[ENDS]

This material comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but May not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2005



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