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Monday, 5 August, 2002, 08:33 GMT 09:33 UK
Truce call ahead of Burundi talks
(l-r) Vice-President Domicien Ndayizeye, Nelson Mandela and President Pierre Buyoya
A power sharing deal has not halted the fighting

The leader of one of Burundi's rebel factions has called for a ceasefire in the country's civil war.

The declaration comes just days ahead of the first ever talks between the Burundian government and some of the country's rebel groups.


If the saying 'talking peace and waging war' ever applied anywhere, then it applies in Burundi.

Pierre Nkurunzizia, who heads one wing of the rebel Forces for the Defence of Democracy, or FDD, said at the weekend that a ceasefire in Burundi's nearly decade long civil war now appears indispensable.

But the chances of a lasting truce still look slim.

Tanzania role

The talks are set to take place on Tuesday in the Tanzanian city of Dar-es-Salaam.

Burundi refugees
Thousands have fled the fighting
The problem, analysts say, is that one of the facilitators in the talks, Tanzania, has thrown its weight firmly behind the Nkurunzizia wing of the FDD.

One analyst said that the Tanzanian peace plan reads like a FDD manifesto and goes as far as calling for a return to barracks by the regular Burundian army.

That is an idea the army will not entertain, particularly given that the country's other major rebel group, which is not expected to attend Tuesday's talks will carry on fighting.

Frustration

Tanzania is home to hundreds of thousands of Burundian refugees, some of whom use their camps from which to attack Burundi.

Tanzania's new pro-FDD stance appears to have been prompted by frustration at the lack of progress made on peace so far.

But it has brought relations between Burundi and Tanzania to an all time low.

More serious still for Burundi, the tension with Tanzania is causing friction within the transitional government, a body that was sworn in last year to allow Burundi's majority Hutu to share power with the Tutsi minority.

Faded hopes

The fighting in Burundi started almost nine years ago, and for most of those nine years there have also been peace talks. If the saying "talking peace and waging war" ever applied anywhere, then it applies in Burundi.

The more diplomats set dates for new peace talks, the more both Burundi's army and its Hutu rebel groups step up armed operations.

Last week's rocket attacks by rebels on the capital Bujumbura and the army's clean-up operations against rebel strongholds outside the capital both look like attempts to derail the peace talks.

Similar armed offensives in the centre of the country last month caused a peace summit to be postponed.

The high hopes for peace that surrounded the swearing-in last November of a transitional government allowing the majority Hutu to share power with the Tutsi minority soon faded when the rebels refused to recognise the accord.

The bottom line in Burundi seems to be that no one - except the country's beleaguered population of peasant farmers - actually wants peace.

And to cap it all, peace talks on Burundi have been going on for so long now that rivalry has started between the different mediators, with regional analysts accusing the European Union of trying to sabotage peace efforts by South Africa.

See also:

17 Jul 02 | Africa
05 Apr 02 | Africa
25 Dec 01 | Africa
07 Mar 02 | Country profiles
04 Jul 02 | Africa
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