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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 April, 2004, 11:46 GMT 12:46 UK
High stakes for Burundi ceasefire
By Mark Doyle
BBC World Affairs correspondent

The announcement by a hardline rebel group in Burundi that it will stop fighting is significant and highlights ethnic and political splits that have torn apart the entire central African region for over a decade.

President Ndayizeye met the FNL earlier this year
The rebel group, the National Liberation Forces (or FNL) is an ethnic Hutu formation that has been fighting the Tutsi-dominated army in Burundi.

Conflicts between Tutsis and Hutus led to the genocide in Burundi's neighbour Rwanda in 1994 and then spilled over into the vast territory of the Democratic Republic of Congo and spread throughout the region.

Tensions between Hutus and Tutsis, and the broader lack of democracy that allows them to fester, is at the heart of much of the chaos and bloodshed in central Africa.

It was entirely appropriate that the first substantial figure to try to resolve the ethnic war in Burundi, in the mid 1990s, was Nelson Mandela.

The Tutsi-dominated Burundi army has held an apartheid-like grip on the country for generations.

Following pro-democracy pressure, elections were held in 1993 and a moderate Hutu, Melchior Ndadaye, won power.

High stakes

But he was promptly assassinated by Tutsi soldiers, the Tutsi military grip resumed and a major Hutu rebellion began.

Burundians have suffered 11 years of civil war
South African peacekeepers sent by Mandela are in place in Burundi, and will now be working to turn the promise by the Hutu rebels to stop fighting into a reality on the ground.

The stakes are extremely high.

Rwanda, which borders Burundi, is still reeling from the genocide 10 years ago in which extremist Hutus tried to wipe out all Rwandan Tutsis; only this month, for example, there was a serious clash between Rwandan Hutu rebels and the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan army.

And the war in the vast territory of the Congo over the last decade was also sparked by tensions between Tutsis and Hutus.

Burundi leader meets last rebels
19 Jan 04  |  Africa
Burundi rebels threaten Bishop
31 Dec 03  |  Africa
Country profile: Burundi
26 Feb 04  |  Country profiles

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