African Press International (API)

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Burundi rebel leader returns home for peace deal

Posted by African Press International on May 31, 2008

Publisher: Korir, source.Reuters

The exiled leader of Burundi’s last rebel group returned to the capital, Bujumbura, on Friday to begin implementing a stalled deal seen as the final obstacle to peace in the tiny Central African country.

Agathon Rwasa, leader of the Forces for National Liberation (FNL), arrived at Bujumbura airport with a South African mediator for talks between his ethnic Hutu group and Burundi’s mixed but Hutu-led government, a Reuters reporter said.

“I know the situation is not yet where everyone wants it to be, but I am sure we can fix this together. I am going home optimistic that things will turn out just fine,” Rwasa said before departing from Tanzania earlier on Friday.

He made no immediate statement upon arrival at the airport, where he was greeted by hundreds of cheering supporters. He was met by diplomats, government officials and flanked by South African soldiers.

Officials said he was due to meet President Pierre Nkurunziza, himself a former Hutu guerrilla leader elected in 2005 as part of an African-brokered peace agreement backed by the United Nations.

The FNL was not part of that deal. The group signed a separate pact with the government nearly 20 months ago but it has stalled over disagreements, and sporadic fighting has broken out.

Clashes between Burundian troops and rebels have killed nearly 100 people in recent weeks. The coffee-growing nation is emerging from more than a decade of ethnic conflict that has killed about 300000 people.

Analysts say the rebel faction numbers less than 3000, a claim the FNL disputes.

Rwasa joins other top FNL officials who arrived in the capital two weeks ago from neighbouring Tanzania, which has led peace efforts for years. —


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