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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 December, 2004, 16:43 GMT
Burundi begins disarmament
By Prime Ndikumagenge
BBC, Bujumbura

The government and the United Nations have begun disarming thousands of soldiers and former rebels as well as forming a new national army.

Former FDD rebel waiting to be demobilised
The mammoth process will take some four years
The process of ending more than 11 years of civil conflict between ethnic Hutu armed rebel groups and the Tutsi-dominated army began with a symbolic ceremony.

President Domitien Ndayizeye and the head of the UN operation in Burundi, Carolyn McAskie, set on fire 100 guns that were handed in by former fighters.

However, the programme is due to take four years, and there remain difficult issues to resolve - not least that the FNL rebel group remains active around the capital, Bujumbura.


More than 200 representatives from the government army and four armed rebel groups will now spend 10 days together, following sessions on how to integrate into ordinary civil life.

The first batch to leave has done so on a voluntary basis and all belong to the lowest ranks in the army and among the former rebels.

Burundi soldier
Hutu rebels are to be integrated into the Tutsi-dominated military
Some 55,000 combatants are due to be disarmed within the next four years, but the process will be gradual because it does not just consist of disarming and demobilising, it also includes plans to integrate them back into society.

The starting point is an 18-month salary package given to the demobilised.

Back in their home villages, they will also receive small business training.

The beginning of the disarmament and demobilisation process is a further signal that the 11-year civil war is gradually coming to its end, but people remain sceptical.

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