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BURUNDI

Weekly Updates – 2/12

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

     

The 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.

Resolution

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