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Monday, 6 December, 1999, 14:01 GMT
New peace talks for Burundi
Nelson Mandela Nelson Mandela: A new strategy to bring peace to Burundi


Former South African President Nelson Mandela has announced that he will start a new round of peace talks in Burundi in February, which will include all sides in the civil war.

"We can't sideline anybody who can create instability in the country", Mr Mandela told South African Television on Sunday.


The sooner talks take place the better
Nelson Mandela
He said the rebel Hutu groups so far excluded from earlier talks would no longer be "ignored".

Mr Mandela was named as the new mediator in peace talks to end the six-year civil war last Wednesday, replacing former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere who died in October.

Mr Nyerere had been trying for over a year to end the fighting between the Tutsi-led government, who took power in a coup in 1996, and the Hutu rebels.

The exclusion of a breakaway Hutu opposition alliance called the National Council for the Defence of Democracy and the Forces for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) has been considered a reason for the failure of talks so far.

Mr Nyerere did not accept the alliance, led by Jean-Bosco Ndayikengurukiye, at peace talks in Arusha because of its use of terror tactics.

Mr Mandela says he is confident their inclusion will improve negotiations:

"I have no doubt...that in every ethnic group there are those who feel that violence, hatred and tension are not in the best interests of Burundi as a country."

He acknowledged however that the process would be difficult, saying "there's going to be a lot of rough times."

Tutsi coup

The civil war in Burundi began in 1993 after the murder of the country's first democratically-elected Hutu president by Tutsi soldiers.

Buyoya Sanctions against Burundi have failed to unseat Major Pierre Buyoya
The current Tutsi-led government is led by Major Pierre Buyoya, who took power in a military coup in 1996.

Hutus form about 85% of Burundi's population, and the Hutus who took up arms against the Tutsi-led government accuse it of discrimination against Hutus in all fields.

The Hutu opposition groups have recently stepped up fighting around the capital Bujumbura, despite a peace accord signed in Lusaka last August in which the CNDD-FDD and Hutu Interahamwe militia were supposed to be disarmed.

The government says the thousands of mainly Hutu villagers in "regroupment" camps have been moved there to protect them from the fighting.

There are also reports that the militias are working closely with the Interahamwe in neighbouring Rwanda, and with the Zimbabwean forces in the Congo, with the aim of renewed attacks. Zimbabwe has denied any involvement.

Mr Mandela's priority will be to broker a ceasefire which will avert a humanitarian crisis in the camps, where food is scarce and sanitation poor, and stop refugees of the fighting from fleeing to Tanzania.

New order

In a separate development five political parties, two MP's and a former prime minister announced a new alliance in Burundi on Saturday.

Burundi army The civil war has left 200,000 people dead
The party, called the National Alliance for Change (ANAC), has called for a new order and an end to repression and ethnic division in the war-torn country.

Its founders said in a statement they wanted to "free Burundians from ethnic-religious strife".

They denounced the current political "status-quo" camp which "through fear or inability" has refused to bring about political change and peace.

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See also:
03 Nov 99 |  Africa
Burundi's deadly deadlock
01 Dec 99 |  Africa
Mandela to head Burundi peace drive
13 Nov 99 |  Africa
UN alarmed over Burundi camps
22 Oct 99 |  Africa
US urges Burundi peace talks
14 Oct 99 |  Africa
UN suspends Burundi operations

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