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Burundi Civil War - 2000-2005

An internationally brokered power-sharing agreement between the Tutsi-dominated government and the Hutu rebels in 2003 paved the way for a transition process that integrated defense forces, and established a new constitution and elected a majority Hutu government in 2005. The government of President Pierre NKURUNZIZA, who was reelected in 2010 and again in a disputed election in 2015.

After Facilitator Julius Nyerere's death in October 1999, the regional leaders appointed Nelson Mandela as Facilitator of the Arusha peace process. Under Mandela the faltering peace process was revived, leading to the signing of the Arusha Accords in August 2000 by representatives of the principal Hutu (G-7) and Tutsi (G-10) political parties, the government, and the National Assembly. However, the FDD and FNL armed factions of the CNDD and Palipehutu G-7 parties refused to accept the Arusha Accords, and the armed rebellion continued.

In November 2001, a 3-year transitional government was established under the leadership of Pierre Buyoya (representing the G-10) as transitional president and Domitien Nadayizeye (representing the G-7) as transitional vice president for an initial period of 18 months. At the end of this period, Mr. Ndayizeye or another G-7 designee was to assume the presidency for 18 months and a G-10 representative the vice presidency. While the establishment of a transitional government represented significant progress toward representative government and elections, failure to reach agreement with the rebel factions on an end to the fighting delayed implementation of military reform and other social and political measures provided for by the Arusha Accords.

In December 2001 the NLF (National Liberation Front) stepped up attacks on Bujumbura. The government responded by killing 500 rebels in an attack against the NLF stronghold. Progress toward the goals set in 2001 was achieved when Jean Minani was elected president of the transitional national assembly. However, in July of 2002 the fighting between Hutu rebels and the Burundi government escalated. Then in December of the same year, a cease-fire agreement was signed and talks took place in Tanzania. An agreement emerged from the talks that incorporated the Hutu rebels into the new national army.

The country remained engaged in a low-intensity civil conflict that involved two armed opposition groups, the National Council for Defense of Democracy Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) faction led by Pierre Nkurunziza, and the Palipehutu/National Liberation Front (FNL) faction led by Agathon Rwasa. Smaller factions of both groups had signed and implemented ceasefire agreements with the Transitional Government in October 2002. In December 2002, the largest armed opposition group, the Nkurunziza faction of the CNDD-FDD, also signed a ceasefire with the Transitional Government.

Fighting again broke out in January of 2003 between the Hutu rebels and the goverment, the fighting abated, and in April of 2003 Domitien Ndayizeye became the new president, succeeding Pierre Buyoya. By mid-July 2003 16 of Burundi's 17 provinces were subjected to sporadic fighting, looting and armed banditry. Preliminary reports from the UN Office in Burundi showed that 170 people had been killed and between 6,000 and 7,000 civilians displaced since rebels began attacking the capital, Bujumbura, from 7 July.

In May 2003, Ndayizeye assumed the presidency for 18 months with Alphonse Marie Kadege as vice president. In October and November 2003 the Burundian Government and the former rebel group the CNDD-FDD signed cease-fire and power-sharing agreements, and in March 2004 members of the CNDD-FDD took offices in the government and parliament. The World Bank and other bilateral donors provided financing for Burundi's disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration program for former rebel combatants.

Burundi President Domitien Ndayizeye and the leader of the main Hutu rebel movement signed a peace accord in Dar es Salaam on 16 November 2003, while a smaller rebel group in the central African country was given three months to open talks or face consequences. Under the peace agreement, the the Forces for the Defense of Democracy faction becomes a political party and is expected to have representation in the country's government by the end of November 2003. The rebel Hutu fighters were to be integrated into Burundi's armed forces. There were also provisions to grant temporary immunity to both sides from prosecution. While Burundi's government is led by a Hutu president, the army is dominated by Tutsis. More than 80-percent of Burundi's population are Hutus.

In late November 2003 a spokesman for the National Liberation Forces, Pasteur Habimana, said his Hutu rebels would not join Burundi's peace process unless they were allowed to negotiate with Tutsis. The second largest Hutu rebel group, did not sign onto the peace agreement between Burundi's government and the leading Hutu rebels, the Forces for the Defense of Democracy. Mr. Habimana said those who love Burundi should call the Tutsis to his group so that they can open up and confess the wrongs they have done against Hutus. Conspicuously absent from the peace negotiations was Mr. Habimana's group, which has been responsible for a number of attacks in the country's capital, Bujumbura, as recently as the beginning of the month. The peace accord will have little effect if the National Liberation Forces continue to wage war.

Rebels who were once fighting Burundi's government soldiers were, as of 07 January 2004, fighting side-by-side with them. Under terms of a peace agreement, the Burundi government and the rebel Forces for the Defense of Democracy, or FDD, signed late in 2003, the Hutu rebels were integrated into the national army. In his New Year's Day speech, President Domitien Ndayizeye announced that by January 7th, 40 percent of the army's leadership will be made up of former FDD rebels. The FDD welcomed the move as a crucial step for the beginnings of a new army.

On 21 April 2004, at the end of a four-day meeting in the Tanzanian town of Kigoma, the Burundian rebel Forces nationales de liberation (FNL) faction led by Agathon Rwasa announced that it had decided to suspend hostilities against the transitional government of Burundi. Burundi's communication minister and government spokesman, Onesime Nduwimana, told reporters in the capital, Bujumbura, that there would be no military offensive by government forces if Rwasa's group stopped attacks.

Following consultations with the Regional Initiative, the United Nations, and international partners, the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania held meetings with a delegation from FNL (Rwasa) in Dar es Salaam from 4 to 12 April 2005. At the conclusion of the meetings, the FNL delegation issued a statement in which it expressed the armed group's intention to negotiate with the Government of Burundi, cease hostilities, and provide a written explanation for its involvement in the Gatumba massacre of 13 August 2004. Despite continuing, and sometimes worrying, delays leading to a second extension of the transition period, the Burundian parties, with the support of the international community, have continued to advance on the path of peace.

There were several developments during early 2005, including the successful conduct of the referendum on a post-transition constitution; the promulgation of the electoral code and communal law and announcement of a new electoral calendar; progress towards disarmament, demobilization and reintegration and security sector reform; and positive signs that the FNL (Rwasa) armed group may finally join the peace process.

Despite two postponements, the referendum on the post-transition Constitution was successfully conducted without major incident on 28 February 2005. Of the 3.3 million registered voters, 92.4 per cent, or 2,894,372 Burundians, exercised their right to vote for the first time since 1994, and about 90.1 per cent of voters endorsed the Constitution.

The people of Burundi conducted a peaceful, orderly and dignified exercise of their democratic right to vote in the 04 July 2005 legislative elections. The Government of Burundi and the Independent National Electoral Commission conducted a technically-sound elections carried out in an atmosphere of peace and security.

A joint session of the parliament elected Pierre Nkurunziza, of Hutu ethnicity, as President of Burundi on August 19, 2005 in a vote of 151 to 9 with one abstention, establishing the post-transition government.

Burundi's President Domitien Ndayizeye conceded defeat following his party's loss in parliamentary elections to a former Hutu rebel group. President Ndayizeye urged all parties Wednesday, to accept the will of the people. With all the votes counted, the former Hutu rebels, the Forces for the Defense of Democracy, FDD, came in first with 58 percent. Ndayizeye's ruling Hutu party, Front for Democracy in Burundi, was a distant second, and a party of ethnic minority Tutsis, UPRONA, came in third.

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