Burundi: One Hundred Days to Put the Peace Process Back on Track
Burundi: One Hundred Days to Put the Peace Process Back on Track
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Report 33 / Africa

Burundi: One Hundred Days to Put the Peace Process Back on Track

The deadlock in the Burundi peace process has finally been broken. On 23 July in Arusha, Nelson Mandela’s choice of Pierre Buyoya and Domitien Ndayizeye as president and vice-president of Burundi for the first phase of transition was endorsed at a summit of regional heads of state.

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Executive Summary

The deadlock in the Burundi peace process has finally been broken. On 23 July in Arusha, Nelson Mandela’s choice of Pierre Buyoya and Domitien Ndayizeye as president and vice-president of Burundi for the first phase of transition was endorsed at a summit of regional heads of state. Buyoya and Ndayizeye also agreed to fulfil eleven conditions guaranteeing the full implementation of the Arusha agreement of 28 August 2000. The three-year transition period will start on 1 November 2001. In the absence of a ceasefire, the implementation of the Arusha agreement will not be backed up by a UN peacekeeping force. However a special Burundian protection force is foreseen to facilitate the return of exiled political leaders.  Half of the force will be picked from members of the Tutsi-dominated army; the parties representing Hutu interests will choose the other half.

The political compromise endorsed in Arusha is the result of a change in approach by the Mandela facilitation team. This time priority was given to the negotiations between Pierre Buyoya’s Union pour le progrès national (Union for national progress, UPRONA) and Jean Minani’s Front pour la démocratie au Burundi (Front for Democracy in Burundi, FRODEBU), which must now become the driving forces of the peace process. The previous cycle of negotiations, based on the fiction of discussions between nineteen equal parties, is finally over. The key transition partners, UPRONA and FRODEBU, must face their responsibilities. The success of the transition will depend on their cooperation. And with the issue of the transitional leadership finally sorted out, the negotiators will have no choice but to focus on the central issue of the peace process: the reform of the armed forces.

Up to now, despite regional and international mobilisation on the issue of a ceasefire, the armed groups have given no tangible sign of willingness to negotiate within the Arusha framework. The latest ceasefire negotiations, which took place in Pretoria on 25 and 26 July between the government and the Conseil national pour la défense de la démocratie-Forces de défense de la démocratie (CNDD-FDD), were a failure. The CNDD-FDD rejected the Arusha agreement, criticised the South African facilitation team for being biased, and demanded the appointment of a French-speaking co-mediator. The Parti pour la libération du peuple hutu-Forces nationales de libération (PALIPEHUTU-FNL) also seems uninterested in the implementation of the Arusha agreement, simply reiterating its own negotiating conditions.

The ceasefire negotiations are also FRODEBU’s responsibility. The credibility of its leadership of the Hutu political family and its capacity to lead the transition successfully are dependent on it. But the burden of obtaining a ceasefire cannot rest on FRODEBU alone.  It is high time to seek a more suitable and productive formula for the negotiations. Failure carries too many risks for the future of the transition. The coup attempt of 22 July, (the second in just over three months), is a clear warning to Pierre Buyoya: in the absence of ceasefire, the political choices made in Arusha frighten the army and the Tutsi community in general. Some of its members are ready to stop the peace process dead.

The hundred days from 23 July to 1 November are therefore pivotal for the Burundi peace process. These hundred days will lay the foundations of the coming transition period. They must produce sufficient confidence in the peace process to ease fears and reduce hostility. At this point, it is crucial that all political actors, national, regional and international, show unambiguous support for putting the peace process back on track. The coup-plotters must be strongly discouraged, and the necessary pressures must be applied to bring the rebels back to the negotiating table. Burundi’s donors must also keep the promises of financial support made at the Paris conference of December 2000. By 1 November 2001, Burundi’s population must have regained hope that peace is possible, and begin to feel the economic and social benefits to be gained from the implementation of the Arusha agreement. All these efforts must get underway now, so that at the end of the hundred days, a brighter future is in sight for Burundi.

Arusha/Bujumbura/Nairobi/Brussels, 14 August 2001

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