Rwanda: February 20, 2005

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The Burundian government claims that 18,000 Hutu rebels have turned in their arms since January 25, 2005. The 18,000 rebels are part of the FDD (Forces for Defense of Democracy). The rebels began gathering in what the Burundian government calls "regroupment camps" as part of the peace process now under the direction of the transition government. (Some reports call the camps "cantonments.") The Burundian government also says that 9,000 other former FDD fighters are now conducting operations with the Burundian Army--specifically pursuing some 3,000 FNL (Forces for National Liberation) Hutu rebels who have not joined the peace process. In fact, since late December, the "Army of Burundi" now has a new official name: National Defense Forces (FDN). This reflects the transition government's "military integration policy." The FDD and five other rebel groups are in the process of being integrated into the Burundian military. The Burundian Army was a Tutsi-dominated institution that was a law unto itself. The new FDN is supposed to have Hutu officers in key positions and be accountable to the civilian leaders in the transition government. The fact that the transition government has demobilized nearly 20,000 former rebel fighters gives the peace process a tremendous boost. It also shows how strong the FDD is in comparison to its rival, the FNL. The biggest Hutu rebel organization chose to political option. Like Saddam's former cronies who set off bombs in Iraq, the FNL can still make trouble, but as a political force it is increasingly marginal. (Austin Bay)


 

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