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UN Peacebuilding Commission calls on Burundian rebels to re-engage with Government

20 September 2007 The United Nations Peacebuilding Commission has called on the last major rebel hold-out group in Burundi to “resume promptly without condition” its participation in efforts to finally close the chapter on years of ethnic violence in the small Central African country.

In July the Palipehutu-FNL, which has not signed peace accords reached with other rebel groups, withdrew from the Joint Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JVMM) set up to monitor a ceasefire it signed with the Government last year, and UN officials have since called on both sides to refrain from any actions that might lead to a resumption of hostilities.

The Commission, set up last year as part of major UN reforms to help prevent countries emerging from conflict from slipping back into violence through technical and other support, including financial aid from the UN Peacebuilding Fund, yesterday urged the rebel group to constructively re-engage with the Government to resolve their differences.

At a meeting in New York, it also called on the Government to investigate “fully and immediately” recent governance issues and take steps to strengthen Government controls over its expenditures to stem misuse of public funds.

The Commission also asked the African Union to continue supporting regional peace initiatives and uphold its timetable for completing implementation of the ceasefire agreement by the end of the year.

Burundi, which was torn apart by 13 years of armed conflict between the Hutu majority and Tutsi minority, became the first focus of the Commission, along with Sierra Leone. Beyond the issue of the PALIPEHUTU-FNL, the country also faces challenges to peace stemming from regional developments, a fragile budgetary situation and a parliamentary deadlock preventing the passage of crucial legislation.

Burundian representative Joseph Ntakirutimana said the Government would make every effort to comply with the Commission’s requests, but he voiced concern that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had not heard the Government’s “cries of alarm” by recommending an increase in oil prices even while Burundi struggled with its finances.

Schools had been unable to open for the academic year even though education was a priority and a strike by magistrates was also threatened he said, adding that perhaps the IMF was not working hand-in-hand with the Commission.

He asked the Commission to do its utmost to ensure that the promised budgetary support reach the country by “tomorrow” as failure to receive such support could result in further serious difficulties for the country.

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