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Page last updated at 18:16 GMT, Saturday, 18 April 2009 19:16 UK

Leader of Burundi rebels disarms

Agathon Rwasa, leader of Burundi's last active rebel group, the FNL, arrives at the Bujumbura airport on 30 May
Agathon Rwasa said the demobilisation was a landmark

The head of the last major rebel group in Burundi has handed over his weapons at a ceremony marking the end of an armed struggle against the government.

Agathon Rwasa, of the Forces for National Liberation (FNL), gave his arms to African Union troops overseeing the peace process.

Up to 20,000 FNL rebels are due to be disarmed next week and some will be integrated into the security forces.

The FNL is expected to be registered as a political party next week.

Ethnic conflict in Burundi has led to the deaths of about 300,000 people in the past decade.

End of turmoil?

Agathon Rwasa handed over his arms at a ceremony in Rubira, about 20km (12 miles) west of the capital Bujumbura, where more than 3,000 of the rebels were gathered.

Government officials and South African mediators were also present.

Mr Rwasa described the day as a landmark in the history of his movement and for Burundi.

Burundi soldier
Burundi's army will absorb more than 2,000 former rebels

Other members of the FNL are due to be disarmed next Tuesday before being taken to demobilisation centres.

Mediators have said that 3,500 former rebels will be integrated in Burundi's security forces - 2,100 into the army and 1,400 into the police force.

Lt-Gen Derrick Mgwebi, special envoy for South African chief mediator Charles Nqakula, said on Friday that integration would happen when the government has been told by mediators that "the FNL combatants are officially disarmed".

"There is a light at the end of turmoil," he added.

The Burundi state and the FNL signed a peace agreement in 2006 that ended two decades of ethnic war, but tensions have remained high.

The BBC's Prime Ndikumagenge spoke to villagers near the assembly area and most said they were happy that the ceremony had taken place.

However, some are worried that so few of the rebels are being integrated into the security forces.

One villager, who was not named, said: "We wonder what will become of the rest. They all know how to shoot and have fought for the movement but we hear they are being sent away without receiving anything. We don't know how all of this will end."



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