Burundi: Finalising Peace with the FNL

Posted in Africa | 29-Aug-07 | Source: International Crisis Group

Nairobi/Brussels, 28 August 2007: Unless Burundi’s government negotiates a genuine peace agreement with the PALIPEHUTU-FNL, the last active rebel group in the country, its nascent democracy could yet falter.

Burundi: Finalising Peace with the FNL,* the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines the need for a negotiated solution with the PALIPEHUTU-FNL to break a dangerous stalemate that could seriously undermine the consolidation of peace and democracy. Little progress has been made since the signing of the ceasefire agreement on 7 September 2006. At the end of July, the hasty departure from Bujumbura of the rebel delegation negotiating implementation of that agreement precipitated widespread fears fighting could resume.

“With tensions already high between the presidency and the opposition parties, government hardliners could use the failure of the negotiations with the PALIPEHUTU-FNL to justify suspending civil liberties and undermining democratic institutions”, says David Mugnier, Crisis Group’s Central Africa Project Director.

International efforts over the last two years to implement a peace agreement between the government and the PALIPEHUTU-FNL have failed partly due to the difficulties of dealing with an insurgency that retains an ethnic reading of the conflict and considers that time is on its side, due to the expected return of 350,000 refugees from Tanzania, among whom it has important support. The government has its share of responsibility for the failure, since it has not created conditions conducive to rapid implementation of the ceasefire.

The international community needs to acknowledge there is a dangerous stalemate and that a new round of talks must be launched, under supervision of a new facilitation team and led by a prominent diplomat, who would work full time on the negotiations and closely with South Africa, Tanzania, the African Union and the UN. While respecting the constitution, the government should prioritise diplomacy over military action and recognise the need to renew negotiations on a political, not purely technical level.

The PALIPEHUTU-FNL should express its main demands for integration into the security forces and political institutions in clearer terms. After an agreement is signed, regional states and the wider international community should be prepared to impose serious sanctions on the rebels if they do not keep their commitments and disarm.

“If the government continues to snub the rebels’ repeated demands for integration, the PALIPEHUTU-FNL will never disarm and will continue to undermine the consolidation of peace in Burundi”, says François Grignon, Crisis Group’s Africa Program Director.

Contacts: Nadim Hasbani (Brussels) 32 (0) 2 541 1635
Kimberly Abbott (Washington) 1 202 785 1601

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*Read the full Crisis Group report on our website: http://www.crisisgroup.org

The International Crisis Group (Crisis Group) is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation covering some 60 crisis-affected countries and territories across four continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict.