Rwanda: February 5, 2005

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: Burundi's rebel Forces for National Liberation (FNL) issued two promising statements on January 28 and another on February 3. The guerrilla group said that it would consider peace talks with Burundi's coalition government. Good news? The FNL has put out negotiation offers before, and the civil war simply continued. The February 3 statement stipulated that South Africa's Deputy President Jacob Zuma cannot act as a "mediator" in peace negotiations. After the January 28 FNL peace offer, Zuma said he "welcomed it" but the FNL offer came "too late" to change plans for elections held in April. Now the FNL believes Zuma is "biased" against it. Zuma has served as a "peace facilitator" for the various factions in Burundi's transitional government. The FNL prefers a UN negotiator The FNL also has this demand: it insists that it be treated as a legitimate resistance organization, not a terror organization. Meanwhile, the killing continues. The government claims that a provincial governor in Bubanza Province (north of Bujumbura) was assassinated earlier this month by the FNL. The governor's car was ambushed as he was traveling to Bujumbura. The FNL denies the charges and blames "other groups" in Bubanza Province who have grievances with the governor's administration. The major firefight on January 2, which left 46 FNL fighters dead, demonstrated that the FNL still has a force in the field-- but that death toll represents a large tactical military defeat in the Burundian civil war. Perhaps it's beginning to dawn on the FNL that the new FDD Hutu party made the smart decision to end the fight and join the government. There's an echo here of holdout pro-Saddam Hussein Sunnis waking up after the January 30 Iraq elections--like, hey guys, you're missing the political train. As it is, rogue Burundian Hutu guerrilla groups remain in Burundi and the DRC. The FNL claim that "other groups" murdered the Bubanza governor could well be true, and that means continued low-level fighting even if the FNL joins the Burundian peace process. --Austin Bay

 

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