- Burundi's hard-won peace is at risk "if the electoral process is not set in train urgently," observers warn today. The international community is urged to "stay engaged" and help break the current political deadlock. Donors were reported to have lost interest in Burundi's complicated peace process.
The Brussels-based think-tank, the International Crisis Group (ICG), today published a new report on the situation in Burundi, where it details what it calls "the steps to be taken to keep the transition on track." The group is concerned that the "home stretch" of Burundi's transition process may be failing if the international community fails to keep the pressure high and stick to its funding promises.
According to ICG, the considerable progress Burundi has made over the past year in consolidating its three-year transition "risks ending in a dangerous political vacuum" if strong commitments are not made immediately to the constitution and the electoral process outlined in the 2000 Arusha agreement.
- Burundi has become much safer, and for the first time in more than a decade, the country could be headed toward a genuine end to conflict, says Stephen Ellis of the ICG's Africa Programme. "But the international community has to stay engaged, and Burundi's political leaders must also live up to their Arusha commitments by adopting a constitution. Lack of political will now could cause the whole transition process to unravel," he adds.
Since its signing on 16 November 2003, the transitional government and CNDD-FDD rebels headed by Jean-Pierre Nkurunziza have respected the compromise ceasefire agreement. Bujumbura Rurale - just outside the capital - is the only province where members of the remaining rebel group known as PALIPETHUTU-FNL still clash with government forces. According to ICG, however, that rebel group is now weakened and not capable of derailing the process.
Both the army and the FDD former rebels have demonstrated willingness to implement part of the joint operational plan for disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration by separately disengaging and assembling their forces and respecting the ceasefire. "But the process is running out of steam because of lack of commitment and funds to carry out the actual integration," the ICG report warns.
The international community is advised to promote demobilisation and reintegration in Burundi by providing experts to help the country come up with a realistic and final draft constitution, and by keeping the parties to the 31 October 2004 deadline for holding free and fair elections.
The Arusha peace process foresees these elections and constitutional changes, but the Brussels-based group is concerned that time is running out to reach these deadlines. "A stalled constitutional process or delayed elections would put at risk all the gains Burundi has made over the past three years," the report warns.
- The world must renew its commitment to Arusha and to the comprehensive ceasefire by insisting on total respect for the framework they establish, concludes Susan Linnee of ICG.
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