Progress in Burundi

African Union troops are physically disarming 21,000 fighters from Burundi’s last active rebel group, the Forces for National Liberation (FNL).

It follows a weekend ceremony where FNL leader Agathon Rwasa symbolically surrendered his own weapons to the AU.

A grenade attack killed six people but the BBC’s Prime Ndikumagenge says it was not linked to the rebels.

But he says it shows how many weapons are circulating in Burundi following more than 10 years of ethnic conflict.

bbc

Comments

  1. #1 Richard
    April 22, 2009

    This is encouraging but the big test will come in 2010, when the next elections are due. Notwithstanding Rwasa’s apparent change of heart (which many Burundians I know see more as a “rebranding” exercise than a genuine transformation), the FNL under Rwasa have a long track record of torture and mass-killing – eg:http://www.hrw.org/legacy/backgrounder/africa/burundi/2004/0904/1.htm#_Toc81987410 and http://www.hrw.org/legacy/reports/2000/burundi/Burn004-05.htm#P140_25959, particularly targetting the Tutsi ethnic group. In 2004 at the Gatumba refugee camp, the FNL and their Congolese and Rwandan allies killed at least 156 Tutsi civilians, half of them children. I’ve seen footage of the aftermath and it’s one of the most horrific things I’ve ever seen. The fear is that if this sort of thing goes unpunished, as seems likely right now, then it’s likely that similar things will happen again in future. Since the 1960s there seems to have been an acceptance among Burundi’s political elite, that the killing of civilians is just another legitimate tactic in the ongoing struggle for power, with a kind of “gentleman’s agreement” between those at the top on both sides of the ethnic divide not to apply the law in cases when it’s merely impoverished Hutu and Tutsi peasants who are getting killed.

    The current Burundian ruling party, CNDD-FDD, is a Hutu-led former hardline rebel group who demobilised in 2003/04, with many believing that this was essentially the end of the war and the bright new hope for the future. The record of the party in office suggests that, as has been the case elsewhere in the world, reformed warlords generally don’t make terribly good democrats. (eg: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=28507 andhttp://richardwilsonauthor.wordpress.com/2008/11/12/alexis-sinduhije-jailed-on-charges-of-insulting-the-president/). This also seems pretty disturbing: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/7993550.stm

    Unfortunately it’s far from clear whether regional governments and the UN really have the will or the capability to match their words with actions on the corruption/impunity/good governance issues. If they don’t, then unfortunately it’s difficult to see how this latest “breakthrough” will be anything more than a temporary lull.