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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
07 September 2006

BURUNDI: Last rebel group signs cease-fire with government

DAR ES SALAAM, 7 Sep 2006 (IRIN) - The government of Burundi signed a cease-fire with the country’s last remaining rebel group on Thursday, marking a milestone in the tiny nation’s emergence from a 13 year civil war.

President Pierre Nkurunziza and leader of the National Liberation Force Forces (FNL) rebels, Agathon Rwasa, signed the cease-fire deal in the Tanzanian commercial capital, Dar es Salaam.

"We want to reassure our brothers and sisters of FNL that our government is ready to work with them in promoting peace, democracy, reconstruction and reconciliation in Burundi," Nkurunziza said shortly after signing.

Rebel leader Rwasa said he was happy with the agreement and was looking forward for its full implementation. No details of the terms of the deal were made available.

At least 300,000 people died in Burundi’s civil war, many of them civilians through disease and hunger. Hundreds of thousands more were displaced by the fighting.

The conflict began in 1993 when paratroopers from the Tutsi ethnic group assassinated the country’s president, an ethnic Hutu who make up the majority in Burundi.

The FNL was the only rebel group not to have signed peace deals that made way for elections in August last year. Those polls established Nkurunziza, himself a former rebel leader, as president. His former fighting group is now Burundi’s ruling party.

South African President Thabo Mbeki, attended the special ceremony along with presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and representatives from regional and international bodies.

Thursday’s ceremony wraps up four months of stop-start negotiations between the recently installed government and the FNL, mediated by South Africa. The two sides had signed a provisional truce on 18 June.

A major stumbling block to securing the cease-fire had been the make up of the national army, which the NFL wanted dissolved or overhauled.

After the signing, Nkurunziza said FNL fighters who wished to join the national army were welcomed to do so.

The civil war pitted a minority Tutsi-dominated army against a host of rebel groups, all of which were headed by Hutus.

Though the war is over, political troubles persist in this former Belgian colony.

Nkurunziza’s government is facing dissent within its ranks following recent coup plot allegations that have led to the arrest of several high profile figures, including former president Domitien Ndayizeye.



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