/ 15 October 2007

Burundi rebels to rejoin truce team

Burundi rebels will rejoin a truce-monitoring team they quit in July, the facilitator, South African Minister of Safety and Security Charles Nqakula, said on Monday, boosting efforts to bring a lasting end to a decade of conflict.

”The stalled Burundi peace process will be resumed on Saturday October 20, when the joint verification-monitoring mechanism hold a meeting in Bujumbura to resume the task of implementing the ceasefire agreement between the Burundi government and the … [rebel] Forces for National Liberation [FNL],” Nqakula told a news conference.

But he expressed concern because some fighters who left the FNL had come under attack by other members of the rebel group.

The rebel group refused in September to rejoin a truce-monitoring team they quit in July unless Nqakula was replaced.

The team — comprising FNL members, government officials and South African mediators — was set up after the FNL agreed to a peace deal in September to end more than a decade of civil war that has killed 300 000 people.

The FNL — the last active rebel group in the tiny Central African country — accused Nqakula of bias.

He expressed concern because about 1 500 fighters who have left the FNL were attacked by FNL fighters. He said many others were expected to abandon their positions as well.

”… A crisis has arisen with some FNL combatants abandoning their positions …,” he said.

”They were attacked by other FNL combatants because they are considered to have betrayed the cause.”

Nqakula insisted that he would not step down unless a regional committee comprised of representatives from Uganda, Tanzania and South Africa that mandated him to help implement a ceasefire agreement asked him to do so.

”The facilitation will not change and the FLN had been asked to rejoin the peace process without conditions,” he said. — Reuters