Notes following Briefing to media by Government of Burundi Representative General Everiste Ndayishimiye and Chairperson of the Paliphehutu-FNL Agathon Rwasa  Lanseria Airport, Johannesburg
Sunday 8 June 2008

Comments by Special Envoy Ambassador Kingsley Mamabolo

The government of Burundi has for the last two years been negotiating with a group called the Paliphehutu-FNL.  You are aware that negotiations have in fact been going on for more than two years.

The region is responsible for bringing peace to Burundi and it has appointed a number of facilitators/mediators – Julius Nyere, followed by former President Nelson Mandela, Jacob Zuma and now we have Minister Charles Nqakula who is the present Facilitator – on behalf of the region, headed by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and assisted as Deputy Chair by Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete.  They are the ones, on behalf of the region, who are conducting these negotiations.  However, they have asked South Africa to assist the Facilitation through Minister Nqakula.

As a result of these negotiations, you now have a democratically elected government in Burundi.  However, one group decided to remain outside the peace process – the Paliphehutu-FNL.  The other parties came on board but this group continued fighting.  Negotiations were very difficult.

We signed a ceasefire agreement on 7 September 2006 as a result of these negotiations headed by Minister Nqakula.  This Agreement has been violated repeatedly and the war continued.

The two parties also signed what is called the Political and Military Principles that were to lay the foundation for peaceful negotiations on the ground.  This was signed on 18 June 2006.  We have not been able to implement this agreement.  For the past two years, we have been trying to implement this Ceasefire Agreement.  The rebel group has been outside of this process.

There have now been new developments – the Chairman of the Paliphehutu-FNL has now returned to Burundi – this is a very important development because you now have the leader of the group who was outside when the processes were unfolding.  The negotiations are now going to take place inside Burundi and this is a very encouraging development.

In May a Cessation of Hostilities was signed because despite the ceasefire agreement signed in 2006 killings continued and the agreement was not observed.  War has now stopped in Burundi!  There have been no incidents of violence reported.  We are monitoring this to see that it does not happen.  But for the first time we are beginning to feel optimistic – that we are achieving something.  That you have all the parties inside the country means there is very little room for the outbreak of war. 

We are going to look at all the issues – we are at the stage where we will have to implement the Ceasefire Agreement.  The Ceasefire Agreement is implemented by the Joint Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JVMM).  This JVMM is set up for the purposes of implementing the DDR process which is the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration processes.  What you want to do first is to disarm and reintegrate the combatants that have been fighting.  You also want to demobilise those who should not be soldiers – women, children and then you integrate army troops who have been fighting.  You then begin to create the conditions for democratic elections and so on.  We are really at this stage where it is finally possible to implement the Ceasefire Agreement now that we have peace in Burundi.  The DDR process should have started two years ago but it is only now becoming operational.  We have created the Joint Liaison Teams (JLTs) – which are subcommittees of the JVMM.  The JLTs help the JVMM – you would have a liaison team that deals with the monitoring of the ceasefire, one that deals with the release of political prisoners, one that deals specifically with the creation of the Assembly areas because when you bring in the combatants you will have to put them into Assembly areas.

What is now happening is that the leader of the rebel group, Agathon Rwasa is arriving in South Africa with the leader of the negotiating team from the government side – General Ndyi – they are coming to attend a meeting that we as the Facilitation have organised in South Africa – the meeting will take place Monday – Tuesday 9-10 June 2008 in Magaliesberg.  We have also invited members of the international community – the UN, the AU, different countries represented by the envoys from the Great Lakes.

This is an important meeting because it not only looks at the resolution of the conflict, but we are beginning to look at Burundi’s post-conflict reconstruction and development.  So you are looking also at the developmental issues because to finish the war in Burundi, you not only want to deal with the causes but also the issues of development to prevent a regression into conflict.

Why is this important?  After all, Burundi is a tiny country in central Africa – but this is one country where Africans themselves took the initiative – Africans demonstrated that we have the capacity as Africans to resolve our own conflicts.  If you remember, when the conflict began, the AU and countries like South Africa, Mozambique, Ethiopia were there even before the other countries from the international community became involved.  So, this is one case where we want to illustrate as an example that Africa can solve its own conflicts.  Off course we have international support but by-and-large, this is one country were efforts to a large extent were African efforts.

It is also important to resolve this conflict because it is part of the Great Lakes region – you are aware of the Congolese conflicts – these conflicts are interlinked.  The rebel groups were all operating from the east of the Congo – rebel groups fighting against Uganda, Burundi, the Congo government itself – all conflicts are interlinked.  The stability of the Congo is as much dependent as peace in Burundi as is the conflict in the south of Sudan, Uganda, etc.  it is like a jigsaw puzzle that must be solved if we are to have peace, security and stability.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen,

We are in a positive situation, we have succeeded in signing of Joint Declaration of the Cessation of Hostilities – we are working very well – we adopted the Joint Operations Plan to facilitate the operationalisation of this agreement.

Now, as you have seen, we are together as members of the Political Directorate and as Burundians.  I am a representative of the Burundi government, I lead the government delegation to this meeting and I am together with my brother Agathon Rwasa who is the leader of the Paliphehutu-FNL.  It is a sign that we are now working together in implementing the ceasefire agreement and I would like to invite him to read the joint communiqué of the Burundi government and the Paliphehutu-FNL.

We, the Government of the Republic of Burundi and the Paliphehutu-FNL, have come together today in South Africa to deliver a common message of all Burundians to the international community, on the occasion of the meeting of the Special Envoys of the Great Lakes Region to Burundi.

This is an opportunity for us, on behalf of all Burundians, to thank the Regional Initiative, the South African Facilitation, the United Nations through its Integrated Office in Burundi, the African Union, the European Union and all other partners who are continually contributing to peace processes in Burundi.

We have decided to end hostilities, as we are aware that the people of Burundi have, for too long, suffered from them.  On 26 May 2008, within the Political Directorate, we signed a joint declaration by which we decided on an immediate cessation of hostilities.

Since then, we have, within the Joint Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JVMM), shown our desire to overcome their differences, and this enabled us to adopt, on 2nd June 2008, the Joint Operations Plan, which will guide the JVMM during the process of disarmament, demobilisation, reintegration and rehabilitation.  In this regard, we particularly thank the African Union, the European Union, Switzerland and the International Community of the Red Cross for the food, medical and logistics support they are providing to the Paliphehutu-FNL combatants during the pre-cantonment phase.

We have also come, united, to ask the international community to continue lending its assistance so that we can move forward together on the path of peace for the benefit of all Burundians.

Questions and answers

Question           This process has been going on for more than two years?  Why should we believe it will now be different?

Answer                (General Everiste Ndayishimiye) We have been working for more than two years now but this time, I believe is different.  There is a change that is visible to everybody – we are all together.  Formally the Paliphehutu-FNL was outside the country but now it has come back to Burundi and if there is any difficulty, it can be easily discussed because both parties are now in Burundi.  In addition, for Burundians themselves, none is willing to go back to war and this is supported by the international community who is also present in this room today.  There is therefore mutual trust.  Assistance is easily sought from partners who are present so there is every belief that the process can move forward.

Question           Mr Rwasa, do you believe the issue of your immunity has been adequately covered?

Answer                (Agathon Rwasa) As can be expected, this is still an issue that is pending but I am certain this can be resolved especially because there is the Political Directorate which is a forum in which issues such as this is discussed.  As a matter of fact, the Paliphehutu-FNL has presented a letter to the Political Directorate in which it has raised the issue of immunity.  Besides this, it has also raised the issue of the recognition of the movement as a political party and also another issue that has been raised in the letter is the forces technical agreement which deals with issues such as demobilisation and disarmament of the combatants.  There issues are very important.

                              There is every hope that we can find an adequate solution to all these issues but what is most important is the willingness to move forward and we urge the international community to continue supporting Burundi.

Question           Mr Rwasa, what is the FNL expecting over the next two days?

Answer                (Mr Rwasa) The Paliphehutu-FNL is in South Africa today within the framework of the Special Envoys of Burundi meeting.  We come as part of the members of the Political Directorate.  The Political Directorate has as part of its mandate a commitment to meet every three months to inform the special envoys of the progress made in the peace process and therefore this is why we are here – to discuss the progress in the implementation of the ceasefire agreement.  However, the international community must take decisions on how to move the peace process forward.  The Paliphehutu-FNL is not alone in expecting that the peace process moves forward.  It is also an expectation that the people of Burundi also want development.  In any country where there has been conflict, the people want development.  The Paliphehutu-FNL expects the international community to play a crucial role in these areas.  The government of Burundi also shares this expectation.  Work continues in Bujumbura after the two-day meeting in South Africa within the context of the JLTs that were established under the JVMM which has already begun working.

Question           The President of Burundi was in South Africa last week.  Why has he not remained for this conference – why has he returned to Burundi?

Answer             (General Everiste Ndayishimiye) We are here, not to negotiate but to send a message to the international community that we have taken the path of peace.  The President was here for a working visit and could not really remain after his work was completed.  He has representatives, that is, the government of Burundi is represented within the Political Directorate – that is why I am here.

The Political Directorate is not a government body.  It is a body outside of the control of the government and it is aimed at helping Burundians solve problems they encounter in the implementation of the Ceasefire Agreement so we are here as members of the Political Directorate which is not under the mandate of the President of Burundi although he will receive a report on this visit to South Africa.
                              Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152

8 June 2008

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