Rwanda: Give Peace Another Chance

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December 24,2008: Implementing the latest agreement between the Burundian government and the FNL remains a huge problem for peace mediators. The FNL-Palipehutu have officially agreed to participate in the peace process and this means demobilizing guerilla fighters in assembly areas. The assembly areas will be monitored by outsiders, but the level of trust between the FNL's fighters and the Burundian Army is very very low. Apparently Tanzania played a key role in pressuring the FNL-Palipehutu to agree to drop its "illegal name" on December 4. The FNL wants some "follow-up" by Burundi's neighbors to guarantee security during the demobilizing and reintegration process.

December 16, 2008: The Rwandan government UN allegations it supports militias fighting in eastern Congo. The report tied the Rwandan government to General Laurent Nkunda's National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP).

December 15, 2008: Some 94,000 Burundian refugees have returned home since January 2008. This signals that a lot of people believe Burundi's peace deal is going to hold up. However, the returnees create a lot of problems. Immediate shelter and food for returnees is one problem. Providing farming implements and seeds is another (most Burundians are farmers). There is also the issue of land ownership. Because some of the refugees have "been in exile for years," squatters or neighbors have been using the property. This problem occurs throughout the world. It happened in Bosnia and it is happening in northern Uganda. The trick is to sort it out using legal methods instead of starting a new war.

December 6, 2008: The Rwandan government said that it had discussed conducting "joint disarmament operations" against Interahamwe Hutu militias operating in the Congo-Rwanda border region with the Congolese government. The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) were specifically mentioned. The Rwandan government has sought the elimination of the FDLR since 1994. The Hutu radicals who formed the FDLR played key roles in the 1994 Tutsi genocide. What would a "joint disarmament operation" look like? The Rwandan Army is superior to Congo's forces. "Joint" could mean permission to attack the FDLR in Congolese territory – with Congolese observers watching the action. That would not be too different from Uganda's deal with Sudan, which allowed the Ugandan Army to operate against the Lords Resistance Army in southern Sudan.

December 4, 2008: The Forces for National Liberation-Palipehutu (FNL)-Palipehutu) agreed to change their "unconstitutional name" for a political party, ie Palipehutu. The word is a contraction of the French words for "Party for the Liberation of the Hutu People." According to the deal worked out with the Burundian government, the FNL-Palipehutu's new name for their political party can include the tribe name "Hutu." How this plays out of the next few months remains to be seen. This "name game" has been a major stumbling block in peace negotiations.

 

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