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Sunday, July 09, 2000, updated at 03:03(GMT+8)

Burundi Peace Process Moves Towards Advanced Stage

Work on various draft protocols towards achievement of peace in Burundi has reached an advanced stage although disagreements on several main sticking points still exist.

According to Judge Mark Bomani, head of the Burundi peace facilitation team, his team has been revising the draft peace proposals, "updating them to take into account response of various parties."

Bomani and his team are currently continuing their talks in Tanzania's northern town of Arusha in an effort to produce draft documents by the end of July to form the basis of a peace agreement.

The team will meet mediator, former South African president Nelson Mandela for consultations in Johannesburg on July 10, Bomani said.

All 19 parties featuring the talks have submitted their inputs on the draft peace text, he said, stressing that CNDD-FDD (the National Defense Council of Democracy - the Defense Force of Democracy), a major breakaway armed rebel group, also submitted its ideas last week.

However, Bomani said his team is still waiting for draft proposals from another important rebel group FNL (the National Liberation Force), a splinter of PALIPEHUTU (the Hutu People's Liberation Party), to complete all protocols.

According to Bomani, the fifth committee of the facilitation team, which deals with peace implementation and guarantees, will reconvene in Arusha on July 17 to finalize pending issues.

Meanwhile, Mandela said in an interview with South African Broadcasting Corporation last Tuesday that he expected factions in the Burundi civil war to sign a peace deal on July 20.

The proposed agreement reportedly centers on creating a transitional government, integrating Hutu rebels into the army and establishing an electoral system that will ensure power-sharing between the minority Tutsis and majority Hutus.

However, during the ongoing Arusha talks, heads of the 19 delegations still can not agree on several crucial issues on the electoral system and the transitional government, Burundi Charge d'Affaires in Dar es Salaam Emmanuel Rwamibango told Xinhua.

Some heads have suggested a one-man-one-vote system while others maintain that each tribe elects its own leaders, the envoy said.

Joseph Karumba, leader of the Front for National Liberation (FROLINA), was reported as saying recently that the Group 7 composed of major rebel parties are against a transitional government led by Major Pierre Buyoya and plan to propose its own leader to run the transitional government.

On the pending issue of the composition of defense force and security, some insist to keep the current army to integrate all citizens, including people from the armed rebel group, providing that they are able to meet the provided conditions.

However, the Group 7 reportedly insisted that armed rebel groups should occupy at least 60 percent of a new national army while the existing Bujumbura soldiers should share the remaining 40 percent. Mandela suggested a ratio of 50 to 50.

One of the remaining obstacles in the way of a workable and implementable agreement is the lack of a minimum degree of trust amongst some of the opposing key role-players, critics said.

It is due to this lack of trust that both sides, those who have the power and those who lost it for instance, believe that the other side will again misbehave once a transitional government is put in place.

"Hutus believe that the Tutsis will use any positions of authority to again undermine democracy, while Tutsis believe that Hutus will misuse power in such a way that the physical security of Tutsis as a group will again be threatened," a Burundian said.

In another development, although the formal inclusion of the two once excluded major rebel movements, the CNDD-FDD and the PALIPEHUTU-FNL, is probably the single most important objective of the new mediation of Mandela, their full participation has not yet been finally achieved.

Neither of the movements' leaders attended the meeting held in Pretoria, South Africa at the end of May, which was supposed to be the first meeting in which all armed movements were to participate.

Analysts warned that it will be problematical to move towards any kind of agreements if these armed movements do not actively participate in the peace process.

It is evident that without the participation of these two formerly excluded rebel movements, the Burundi civil war, which has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced 1.2 million over the past seven years, will not end, said Jan Eck, a senior consultant on Burundi to the Center for Conflict Resolution based in Cape Town, South Africa.

Unless there is an end to the war, there can not be a real peace agreement, and even if an agreement were to be signed at Arusha, it would obviously be impossible to implement it, he added.

The latest Burundian conflict goes back to October 1993, when Tutsi paratroopers assassinated Melchior Ndadaye, a Hutu who won Burundi's first democratic elections.

Ndadaye's election immediately spread panic among the Tutsis, who had control of the army, economy and government since the country won independence from Belgium in 1962.

Mandela took over as mediator in last December from late Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere and has been trying to speed up the talks, which have dragged on since July 1998.

Mandela invited all the Hutu rebel groups that had been previously excluded to take part in the peace process.

Negotiations over the past 24 months in Arusha have worked out the outlines of a peace deal.

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Work on various draft protocols towards achievement of peace in Burundi has reached an advanced stage although disagreements on several main sticking points still exist.

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