AFRICA/BURUNDI - Elections cannot be organised in 9 months: open debate

Thursday, 19 February 2004

Bujumbura (Fides Service)- “The enormous amount of work awaiting us cannot be completed in nine months. The political leaders must realise that elections cannot be organised in such a short time”, this opinion was expressed to the international press Burundian foreign minister Therence Sinunguruza who said he was doubtful that elections can be held before the end of the year.
“This is delicate stage in the life of the country” local Church sources in Bujumbura, capital of Burundi, told Fides. “For the moment the debate is limited to the political arena and there is no sign of a return to arms of the Force to Defend Democracy (FDD) rebels.
FDD the main rebel group in Burundi reached an agreement with the government signed by President Domitien Ndayizeye and FDD leader Pierre Nkurunziza on 16 November 2003 in Dar es Salaam, capital of Tanzania. The agreement stipulated power sharing and integration of Hutu rebel soldiers in the Tutsi minority dominated government army; cessation of hostilities and the assignment to the Hutu rebels of the vice presidency, four ministries and 40% of army officer posts and 35% of police officer posts.
Later on 23 November President Domitien Ndayizeye appointed four new FDD ministers: Pierre Nkurunziza, FDD leader (state), Simon Nyandwi (interior), Onesime Nduwimana (communications), Salvator Ntahomenyereye (public works). President Ndayizeye also promised to consult Pierre Nkurunziza on questions of security.
To monitor the agreement an African peace keeping force is being deployed: 3,000 men from South Africa, Ethiopia and Mozambique. The United Nations are considering making the African peace keepers into a UN mission to allow the force to accede to UN funds.
The agreement was not signed by the National Liberation Forces rebels which continue incursions in the north of Burundi.
Matters to be settled before the elections include the drafting of a new Constitution, the promulgation of a new electoral law and the return of 700,000 refugees who fled to neighbouring countries. Many of these, like many other voters in rural areas will have to be instructed on how to vote because the last elections in Burundi were held in 1993.
Since 1993 Burundi has been torn apart by a civil war with Hutu majority rebels fighting Tusti minority led army in which at least 300,000 have been killed. In 2000 an agreement was reached in Arusha (Tanzania) with most of the political parties but not the guerrilla groups, to form an interim government and have 18 under a Tutsi President and Hutu vice president and then 18 months the other way round. But only the agreement reached in Dar es Salaam in 2003, has opened a path to peace. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 19/2/2004, righe 43 parole 564)