End of Transition in Burundi: The Home Stretch
End of Transition in Burundi: The Home Stretch
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Report 81 / Africa

End of Transition in Burundi: The Home Stretch

The considerable progress Burundi has made over the past year in consolidating its three-year transition risks ending in a dangerous political vacuum if strong commitments are not made immediately to the electoral process outlined in the 2000 Arusha agreement.

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Executive Summary

The considerable progress Burundi has been made over the past year in consolidating its three-year transition runs the risk of ending in a dangerous political vacuum if strong commitments are not made immediately to the electoral process outlined in the 2000 Arusha Agreement. Such a vacuum can only result in the discrediting and even the failure of the entire peace process and the withdrawal of the former CNDD-FDD rebel movement from the government, which it only joined in December 2003.

The international community needs to help break this political deadlock by providing experts to fine-tune the draft of the post-transition Constitution, by disbursing funds pledged at a recent donors' conference and especially by supporting the implementation of the global ceasefire agreement meant to go in tandem with free and fair elections.

But Burundi's government must also live up to its responsibilities and commitments by adopting the post-transitional Constitution as soon as possible. Lack of political will rather than a shortage of time is the real issue.

The Arusha Agreement sets 31 October 2004 as the deadline for the end of the transitional period, and tensions are growing in the lead-up to this new phase in the peace process. At the last regional summit on Burundi on 5 June 2004, the Transitional Government proposed rescheduling the elections to October 2005. Regional leaders rejected this ploy, insisting that conditions already agreed upon be respected.

Burundi has become much safer, and for the first time in more than a decade, the country could be headed towards a genuine end to the conflict. Since the signing on 16 November 2003 of the Global Ceasefire Agreement between the Transitional Government and the CNDD-FDD movement headed by Jean-Pierre Nkurunziza, both sides have demonstrated total respect for the ceasefire. Bujumbura Rurale is the only province where members of the PALIPETHUTU-FNL still clash with the FAB/FDD coalition.

The PALIPETHUTU-FNL, the sole remaining rebel group in the field, is no longer capable of derailing the process. It has been seriously weakened by the operations of forces under the new integrated high command of the Burundi army (FAB) and the FDD. This offensive and the acceleration of the peace process forced the FNL to declare publicly a unilateral truce on 21 April 2004 and seek contact with the international community. Nevertheless, the group still refuses to enter negotiations with the Transitional Government. At the 5 June 2004 summit, regional leaders imposed sanctions on the FNL, but these will not resolve the issue. Successful implementation of the ceasefire agreement appears to be the only way to push the FNL to the negotiating table.

An integrated military high command (FAB-FDD) responsible for carrying out the reform of the army has been working since January 2004 on a plan to integrate former rebels. The Joint Ceasefire Committee (CMC) has proposed an operational plan (POC) for disarmament and demobilisation.

Both sides have demonstrated willingness to implement part of the plan by separately disengaging and assembling their forces and respecting the ceasefire. But the process is running out of steam because of lack of commitment and funds to carry out the actual integration. Emphasis is on disarmament and demobilisation, whereas integration of former rebels into the national army remains a priority. The World Bank-backed disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) effort faces political issues it cannot resolve over use of donor funding in such programs. The Transitional Government and donors must cooperate to fund the army's return to barracks and quartering sites so that integration can finally begin.

On 1 June 2004, the African Union peacekeeping mission in Burundi became a UN Peacekeeping Mission, an indication that there is now no going back on the peace process. This new mission must support the implementation of the military process and harmonise it with the political process.

Political parties and politico-military movements failed to adopt the draft Constitution at a 12 April 2004 meeting called by President Domitien Ndayizeye, and entrenched interests are blocking negotiations. The UN, under the aegis of the Implementation Monitoring Commission (IMC), must assemble a team of national and international experts as soon as possible to work with local political actors and come up with a Constitution they can adopt by consensus. The international experts should be those who drew up the Arusha Agreement.

Respect for ethnic balance is one of the incontrovertible achievements of the Arusha Agreement, but this should not become a guarantee of the political status quo. By enshrining the concept of ethnic balance while encouraging political debate, Arusha makes it possible to avoid this eventuality.

The international community must renew its commitment to these political and military agreements by insisting on total respect for the framework they establish. The political calendar governing the end of the transition period must, therefore, be in step with that of army reform. This harmonisation of these two processes should be negotiated via a realistic road map that creates a politico-military environment conducive to successful elections.

Nairobi/Brussels, 5 July 2004

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