Bujumbura (Fides Service)- “This is a history making agreement for Burundi” Bishop Evariste Ngoyagoye of Bujumbura told Fides with regard to peace prospects after the government and the rebel group FDD (Forces for Defence of Democracy), signed an agreement on 16 November in Dar Es-Salaam, capital of Tanzania. “To appreciate the importance of the agreement it should be remembered that the FDD is the main rebel group in Burundi and that it has obtained a certain degree of consensus among the civilian population with control of no small part of the national territory” Bishop Ngoyagoye told Fides. Now peace efforts are directed to the other rebel group National Liberation Forces FNL which have control of the area around the capital. It is this group, the FNL, which is responsible for the latest episodes of violence, particularly heaving shelling of Bujumbura in the past few weeks.
“There is concrete hope that the FNL may also be brought to the negotiating table” Bishop Ngoyagoye said. “As Bishops of the local Catholic Church we have started talks to build a bridge of dialogue between FNL and the government. This is no easy task, the FNL has a strong ethnic identity and sees the conflict only in terms of Hutu fighting Tutsi, whereas the question is far more complex. However as Bishops we are committed to pursuing the path of peace ”.
“This is why the agreement with the FDD is so important. If it holds the FNL will be more inclined to sit and talk, otherwise we may find ourselves back where we started. I am convinced that peace in Burundi is connected with the general situation in the Great Lakes region: peace in the other countries, Democratic Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, will have positive effects also in Burundi and viceversa, the stabilising of my country will help to progress of peace in the whole region ” Bishop Evariste Ngoyagoye concluded.
The peace agreement, signed by Burundian President Domitien Ndayizeye and the leader of FDD, Pierre Nkurunziza, entails power sharing and integration of Hutu soldiers into the regular army, still controlled by the Tutsi minority.
Various heads of state and government were present at the Dar Es-Salaam summit: Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, the President of Congo Joseph Kabila, prime minister of Ethiopia Meles Zenawi and South African vice president Jacob Zuma, main mediator for peace in Burundi.
In an ultimatum the Summit participants told FNL to “suspend hostilities immediately and start peace talks with the government within three months”, otherwise “the people of Burundi, the regional Initiative for Burundi and the African Union will consider the movement an anti-peace organisation and as such it will be treated”. FNL rejected the ultimatum. (L.M.) (Fides 18/11/2003, lines 40 words 496)