AFRICA/BURUNDI - Parishes in Burundi collect aid to face food shortage. The future of the country and outcome of constitutional referendum: local priest talks to Fides

Tuesday, 1 February 2005

Bujumbura (Fides Service)- In northern Burundi thousands are facing food shortage emergency due to prolonged drought (see Fides 12 and 20 January 2005). “At least 90 people in Muyinga diocese are reported dead” a local priest told Fides. “Parishes have started collecting food for the needy” the source told Fides. Local Caritas and Catholic Relief Service offices are organising programmes of food aid in Burundi.
The situation is tense as the date approaches of a referendum on the new Constitution, planned for 28 February. “One central point of discussion is whether interim president Domitien Ndayizeye will candidate himself for the elections in the Spring” the priest said. “According to the agreement signed in Arusha (Tanzania) in 2000 by most Burundian parties, an interim president may not stand for elections in the vote which puts and end to the interim period” the priest explained.
The Arusha agreement stipulated 18 months of interim government presided by Tutsi Pierre Buyoya assisted by Hutu, vice president and another 18 months with Hutu president Ndayizeye, with a Tutsi vice president. This year with the referendum on the new constitution approved by parliament and local and national elections the interim period should end Burundi should find to way to normal democratic life.
But there remains the obstacle of the National Liberation Forces FNL, the last group which is continuing the civil war in Burundi, which yesterday 31 January rejected South Africa’s offer to mediate on the grounds that Pretoria supports the position of the central Burundian government. This refusal would appear to complicate the situation after last week’s ray of hope when the sides agreed to start talks in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), although no date was set. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 1/2/2004 righe 32 parole 402 )