Burundi: Finalising Peace with the FNL
Burundi: Finalising Peace with the FNL
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Report 131 / Africa

Burundi: Finalising Peace with the FNL

Burundi has made relatively rapid, substantial progress in democracy and easing of inter-ethnic tensions, due to its citizens desire to embrace national unity and compromise, as well as the international community’s heavy involvement in the Arusha peace process.

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Executive Summary

Burundi has made relatively rapid, substantial progress in democracy and easing of inter-ethnic tensions, due to its citizens desire to embrace national unity and compromise, as well as the international community’s heavy involvement in the Arusha peace process. Integration of former government security forces and CNDD-FDD rebels in a new national defence force contributed significantly to consolidating peace. However, the peace process remains fragile. To move beyond the long civil war, strengthen democratic institutions and ensure respect for the rule of law, a genuine peace agreement is needed with the PALIPEHUTU-FNL, the last active rebel group, which is not strong enough to fight a new war but remains a power in most western provinces. This requires a new commitment by the government to a negotiated solution, not a military one, and a revived facilitation effort especially by regional states.

The country needs a genuine peace agreement to put the conflict behind it, as evidenced by the fact that the rebel delegation’s hasty departure from Bujumbura in July 2007 precipitated widespread fear fighting would resume. The security forces use the presence of the rebels’ armed wing (the FNL) in the countryside to excuse abuses and human rights violations. Moreover, the FNL problem is becoming a factor in the political crisis, which emerged in March due to tensions between the presidency and parliament. In the short term, government hardliners could use the absence of a peace agreement to justify suspending civil liberties, thus weakening the foundations of the nascent democracy. If not addressed before the end of this year, the lack of peace could become a destabilising factor in preparations for the 2010 elections and serve as a pretext for limitations on political freedoms during the campaign.

International efforts over two years on behalf of an implementable peace agreement between the government and the PALIPEHUTU-FNL have not succeeded. This is partly due to the difficulties of dealing with an insurgency that retains its ethnic reading of the conflict, has been thrown off balance by the electoral victory of its rival Hutu-dominated movement – the CNDD-FDD – and is convinced the eventual return of 350,000 refugees from Tanzania among whom it has important support, means time is on its side. It is also linked to the inflexibility of the CNDD-FDD government, which feels both empowered by its electoral victory and weakened by internal divisions and the crisis with the political opposition, so is tempted to refuse concessions and give priority to a military solution.

The international community should mobilise immediately to prevent further deterioration. To begin with, it should acknowledge that negotiations with the FNL are at an impasse and must be re-launched with more emphasis on the political process. The United Nations (UN) Peacebuilding Commission, which has included completion of the ceasefire agreement with the PALIPEHUTU-FNL among the priorities of the Burundi strategic framework, should consider how to facilitate, in cooperation with the government, the implementation of that agreement. Several steps could help revive the process and increase pressure on the parties:, including reconfiguration of the negotiating delegations; and dispatch of a new facilitation team led by a prominent diplomat dedicated exclusively to the negotiations, who would work closely with the local diplomatic community, countries from the Regional Peace Initiative on Burundi (Regional Initiative), the African Union (AU) and the UN.

The facilitation should push the PALIPEHUTU-FNL to give precision to demands that so far have been used in a general way only, to justify refusal to implement the 7 September 2006 ceasefire agreement. While respecting the constitution, the government and the facilitation should show flexibility in finding ways to address the rebels’ repeated demands for guarantees regarding integration into the security forces and political institutions. Once an agreement has been signed, the PALIPEHUTU-FNL must be pressed to respect its commitments and begin disarmament, and the regional states and wider international community must be prepared to impose serious sanctions if it does not.

Nairobi/Brussels, 28 August 2007

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