AFRICA/BURUNDI - HUTU FIGHTING HUTU. THOUSANDS OF CIVILIANS IN FLIGHT. UNLESS PEACE COMES SOON PEACEKEEPERS WILL BE WITHDRAWN
Bujumbura (Fides Service) – For two weeks there has been fierce fighting around Bujumbura the capital of Burundi. Local sources tell Fides Service that the conflict is between FDD Forces for the Defence of Democracy and FLN National Liberation Forces, both Hutu groups. The FDD invaded territory controlled by the FLN to follow a group of deserters who took refuge in villages around Bujumbura. “For years this area has been in the hands of the FLN which keeps such strict control and even the army dares not set foot” Fides sources say. “This invasion by the FDD is seen as a declaration of war”.
Violent fighting has affected the people who are fleeing en masse. Local Fides sources say “whole villages have been abandoned, people are gripped by terror”. It is estimated that more than 47,000 are on the road. The situation is particularly serious in Mpanda, 12 kilometres from Bujumbura, where 4,500 people are without food, shelter or medical care. “The whole area around Bujumbura has been classified by the stage 4United Nations Organisation. This means for security reasons it is off limits for UN workers. “This means people in this area cannot receive humanitarian aid” . The World Food programme is sending supplies to Burundi but it admits that some parts of the country are very difficult to reach.
On the political and military level the “FLN has always been considered inferior to the FDD, better disciplined and trained, able to subdue larger forces” Fides sources say. “We will have to wait and see the impact of this episode on peace talks, in which the FDD were advancing ever grater requests to the detriment of requests from other groups”.
The peace process is blocked after the last meeting between government and rebels in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania on 15 September. “The meeting failed because the government refused to accept the rebels requests, which it said were excessive” Fides source recalls.
In Burundi there is an African peace keeping force to protect camps of former military who leave rebel groups. But these Africa peacekeepers have no mandate to intervene to stop the present fighting. Every six months this force costs 120 million Euro to keep in Burundi and 25 million Euro are supplied by the European Union. “Unless the peace talks progress the African force will surely be withdrawn because the international community will not spend all this money on a mission destined to fail,» Fides sources say. LM (Fides Service 30/9/2003 EM lines 39 Words: 490)
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