Burundi: To Integrate the FNL Successfully

Burundi: To Integrate the FNL Successfully

Africa Briefing N°63
30 July 2009

This briefing is only available in French

The Burundi peace process has made much progress in recent months. The last rebel group, the Party for the Liberation of the Hutu People – National Forces of Liberation (Palipehutu-FNL), has renounced the use of arms and been registered as a political party. It has also changed its name, in accordance with the law prohibiting party names with an ethnic connotation, to the National Forces of Liberation (FNL). Part of it has been integrated into the security forces, and some of its officials have received high public positions. But the FNL has not turned in all weapons and, like the CNDD-FDD, the party in power, seems ready to use even violence to win the 2010 elections. The Partnership for Peace in Burundi, a new international mechanism, should closely monitor the main political actors and be ready to step in to prevent the peace process from going off track.

The recent positive developments are in large part linked to the involvement of regional governments and the broader international community. A meeting of regional heads of state in December 2008 began a chain of events that saw Palipehutu-FNL combatants move into government-prepared camps and Bujumbura free 247 rebel prisoners. It also led to the rebel movement’s change of name, thus removing one of the major obstacles to implementation of the 7 September 2006 ceasefire agreement.

The political directorate of the international facilitation decided on 8 April 2009 that 3,500 FNL combatants would be integrated into the security forces and 5,000 others demobilised. It also decided that as soon as the facilitation confirmed the rebels’ disarmament, the government would accelerate the release of their prisoners of war, immediately register the FNL as a political party and name 33 of its officials to public positions.

After that meeting in Pretoria, the rebels began to demobilise and join the security forces. On 18 April, their leader, Agathon Rwasa, was the first combatant to officially demobilise. A month later the Senate approved the appointment of a number of FNL officials as ambassadors and provincial governors, and the government freed 113 additional FNL prisoners. On 4 June President Pierre Nkurunziza signed decrees appointing FNL officials to various positions.

Despite this progress in the peace process, however, there are still reasons for concern. The former rebels have not completely disarmed. During the ceremony on 30 April marking the official surrender of their weapons to the army, they turned in only 633 rifles, mortars and machine guns. The FNL accuses the authorities of arresting and persecuting its members, while the government charges it with abusing the population.

The prospect of elections in 2010 has made political actors more nervous and rekindled tensions on the ground. The CNDD-FDD, which like the FNL is mainly Hutu, is alarmed by the FNL’s sudden emergence on the political scene. The party in power fears above all that its chances of winning the elections could be jeopardised by the creation of a coalition around the FNL of Hutu-based parties.

The Partnership for Peace that the international facilitation, chaired by South Africa, has put in place includes the UN, the African Union (AU), Uganda and Tanzania. It seeks to keep the peace process on track and to help foster the FNL’s transformation into a political party and full integration into civilian and security institutions.

The Partnership for Peace should play a key role in consolidation of the peace process. If problems arise, it should mobilise regional states and the wider international community and propose sanctions or other corrective measures.

To assure consolidation of the peace process, the Burundian government, the FNL, and the Partnership for Peace need to take the following steps: