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Weekly Updates – 2/12

Continuing Conflict on the Ground Undermines Peace
Efforts at the Political Level


practical failure of recent negotiations has intensified
the urgent need for outside intervention on the behalf
of the civilian population. In the rural provinces
of Ruyigi, Gitega, and Bujumbura, many are said to
be dying of Malaria or diarrhea. Both the army and
the rebel groups are taking hostages. Reports at the
end of January indicated that anywhere from 15,000
to 60,000 internally displaced persons were stranded
in Gitega province as a result of the fighting. It
must be noted, however, that a recent UN mission was
unable to uncover any conclusive evidence to support
such large estimates. While rumours of mass violence
perpetrated by the Burundian army have not yet been
ruled out as a possible explanation for the whereabouts
of these people, there are reports that the governor
of Gitega may have simply exaggerrated the figures.

The situation in Burundi continues to
deteriorate despite on-going efforts on the part of
President Pierre Buyoya and the leaders of several rebel
groups to negotiate peace. In January, Buyoya and CNDD-FDD
(National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces
for the Defense of Democracy) faction leader Pierre
Nkurunziza signed a Memorandum of Understanding similar
to one already facilitated by the President, Jean-Bosco
Ndayikengurukiye (leader of a smaller CNDD-FDD faction),
and Alain Mugabarabona, who heads the only wing of the
FNL (Hutu People’s Liberation-National Liberation Forces)
that is willing to participate in peace talks. The purpose
of the memorandum is to clarify the terms of the December
2002 peace agreement whose purely symbolic nature failed
to achieve order in the war-torn nation. In light of
the recent outbreaks of violence, the leaders attempted
to specify certain conditions and re-commit themselves
to a more effective plan of action. Among the stipulations
placed on the signatories of the accord, government
soldiers must grant foreign aid missions access to CNDD-FDD
rebels so that they may receive food and supplies. The
army, however, has been impeding these efforts and has
failed to provide security for them when food distribution
was scheduled to take place.

This behavior threatens the very survival
of the rebels who, in turn, are far less likely to cease
violent activity and cooperate with the government.
In addition, the army is partial to long-range bombing
campaigns designed to destroy rebel forces without engaging
in direct conflict. They are firing without warning
and without precision, which implies a grave indifference
to the well being of the mostly Hutu population caught
in the crossfire. There are reports that civilians encountered
in rebel-occupied areas are treated as enemies and subject
to death. For their part, the rebels continue to attack
and loot private homes and stores, also wounding civilians
in the process.

Plans to deploy an African Union peacemaking
force continue to develop, although regional instability
may prevent the arrival of foreign troops. Amnesty International
has implored the African Union to make human rights
protection an integral part of its mission to help bring
order to the country.


As we strive to clarify the situation
of the internally displaced persons, the CPG is committed
to disseminating other information about ongoing human
rights violations and recent political developments
in Burundi. The treatment of civilians caught in the
conflict is our primary concern and our goal is to promote
international awareness of their suffering as peace
negotiatons progress. Though military reinforcements
and cease-fire agreements are crucial, the preservation
of their safety and dignity must be an integral part
of the reconciliation process as well.



©2003 The Center for the
Prevention of Genocide