UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
BURUNDI: IRIN Focus on rebel movements
[This IRIN report does not necessarily reflect the views of the UN]
NAIROBI, 13 October (IRIN) - Tuesday's killing of nine people in Burundi's southeast Rutana province again highlights the uncertain nature of the country's Hutu rebel groups who have become increasingly active in recent months.
The Burundi authorities have pinned the murder of seven Burundians and two international UN workers on rebels from the Forces pour la defense de la democratie (FDD), the armed wing of the Conseil national pour la defense de la democratie (CNDD).
However, it is noteworthy to point out that two other rebel groups - whose activities often overlap - are active in Burundi: the Front pour la liberation nationale (FROLINA) and the Parti pour la liberation du peuple hutu (PALIPEHUTU), which says it is responsible for stepping up attacks against the capital Bujumbura. The rebel groups have issued periodic warning statements to foreigners.
The recent upsurge in armed attacks against the capital drew attention away from the violence in the rest of the country, but observers note that with the prospect of implementation of the Lusaka ceasefire accord in neighbouring DRC, Burundian rebels - accompanied by Rwandan Interahamwe militia and ex-FAR - have been filtering back into Burundi. Unrest is reported to be creeping back in the northern provinces of Cibitoke and Bubanza, bordering DRC, while the southern and eastern provinces of Rutana, Ruyigi, Nyanza Lac and Makamba have always been volatile due to rebel infiltrations from Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
CNDD-FDD - which has split from the main CNDD faction - has denied responsibility for the Rutana killings. Its spokesman Jerome Ndiho told the BBC Kirundi service on Tuesday the FDD "cannot openly attack places where there are civilians". However on 1 October, the group issued a statement condemning the government's policy of regrouping people in Bujumbura Rural. "Our movement issues a warning to any person assisting the mono-ethnic Tutsi army in its genocide against the population of Bujumbura Rural and elsewhere, whether physically or morally," the statement said. "CNDD-FDD requests NGOs not to give in to the duplicity of Major Buyoya," it added.
An expert on Burundi told IRIN regrouping people into protection sites made sense strategically as the "army is happier with the rebels on the battlefield". However, poor conditions in many of the camps meant the policy "is creating chaos and pushing more and more people into the arms of the extremists".
Meanwhile in June, PALIPEHUTU issued a statement warning that its armed wing - the Forces nationales de liberation (FNL) - was poised to attack Bujumbura. The statement, signed by PALIPEHUTU leader Cossan Kabura, said FNL forces "are now well-prepared to finalise the task of restoring peace in Burundi by invading Bujumbura" and warned foreigners to leave the country "as soon as possible". In another statement, received by IRIN in July, PALIPEHUTU repeated its warning to foreigners saying "it would not be responsible for any incident" that happened to them.
Earlier this month, diplomatic missions in Burundi were alerted to threats against foreigners, particularly those of European descent. Observers attributed this to a rebel attempt to drive away foreigners and provoke economic collapse in the country. "If there is any rationale [to rebel activity]...it's to keep outsiders out," one Burundi analyst told IRIN. On Tuesday, IRIN received another statement from PALIPEHUTU in which it said would "continue and intensify the armed struggle until the political demands of the majority are met".
Despite the apparently common aim of bringing down the
government and particularly the army, PALIPEHUTU and
FROLINA are quick to distance themselves from CNDD-FDD.
In June, a PALIPEHUTU statement strongly denied the
FNL was fighting alongside FDD troops and accused the
latter of "trying to take credit" for combating
the Burundian army in the provinces of Cibitoke, Bubanza,
Bujumbura Rural and Ruyigi.
"There are no negotiations or collaborations between PALIPEHUTU and CNDD-FDD," the statement stressed. "It [CNDD-FDD] should stop claiming other people's successes as its own."
In the same statement, PALIPEHUTU, which forms part of a rebel umbrella group Union nationale de liberation (ULINA), announced the formation of a "single fighting movement", the Forces de liberation nationale (FALINA).
Affiliation to the rebel groups goes beyond ethnicity and tends to be founded on family and geography. PALIPHUTU and FROLINA are long-established rebel groups opposed to "Tutsi domination". Dating from the 1970s, they derive their support from the plain area along Lake Tanganyika and the central Muramvya region. CNDD was established in 1994 following the assassination of Hutu president Melchior Ndadaye the previous year, and its political wing is largely made up of Hutu intellectuals from the southern Bururi area. However, many of its fighters come from other parts of the country which led to the split within the group.
The intensification of rebel activity is due in part to the exclusion of the armed factions from the Arusha peace process. Analysts say that with the Arusha process teetering, worsened by the ill-health of the facilitator Julius Nyerere, all sides in Burundi are trying to take advantage of the fluid situation. While the government and rebels have expressed conditional willingness for direct talks, President Pierre Buyoya is trying to consolidate the internal peace process and the rebel groups are stepping up attempts to destabilise the country. "The Rutana incident may sway donors to be more favourable towards Buyoya," one analyst observed.
See also: IRIN Glossary of main rebel groups in the Great Lakes region http://www.reliefweb.int/IRIN/cea/countrystories/drc/19990630a.htm BURUNDI: IRIN Focus on security and the peace process http://www.reliefweb.int/IRIN/cea/countrystories/burundi/19990930a.htm
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Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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