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Burundi Opposition Welcomes AU Call For Implementing Ceasefire

Burundi's main opposition FRODEBU party has welcomed calls by the African Union (AU) President on Pierre Nkuruniziza's government to implement fully a ceasefire agreement signed almost two years ago. The agreement signed between the government and the last rebel Forces for National Liberation (FNL) ended more than a decade of ethnic conflict that has reportedly killed over 300-thousand people. The African Union's Peace and Security Council expressed its deep concern over what it said was the governments procrastination and delaying tactics that continues significantly to affect implementation of a Comprehensive Ceasefire Agreement.

Government troops and the rebel FNL have clashed periodically despite the deal signed in September 2006, which became stalled over the issue of how to deal with demobilized fighters. From the capital, Bujumbura, FRODEBU spokesman Pancreas Cimpaye tells reporter Peter Clottey that President Nkurunziza's government is refusing to heed the African Union's call.

"Basically the Palepehutu FLN is accusing the government, that it is the responsibility of government to move forward with implementation of the peace process, especially when you are talking about power-sharing. Every day the Palepehutu FNL is accusing the government that it is refusing to sit and talk about the power sharing deal," Cimpaye noted.

He claims President Nkurunziza's government is refusing to implement the power sharing agreement fully because of its dislike for a possible defeat in free and fair elections.

"You know that the government is nowadays afraid of elections. So now, he (President Nkurunziza) doesn't like another party to come to power. That is why when some of the parties asked to join the peace process, the ruling CNDD-FDD party refused them, and especially, the Palepehutu FNL, which as an armed group maybe can cause a lot of problems in the 2010 elections. Maybe that is the reason why the government is trying to delay so that we can go to the election without the Palepehutu FNL," he said.

Cimpaye said the government has refused to engage other opposing parties in the peace process with the rebel FNL group.

"Unfortunately, the FRODEBU party and other parties are somehow not involved in the whole process. Now, they are trying to keep FRODEBU and other parties outside of the process, although we are represented in the national assembly. It means that we don't know exactly what is happening; we have some information from the Palepehutu FNL sometimes from the government, but not officially. Officially, the CNDD-FDD wants to deal with that issue alone," Cimpaye pointed out.

He said the government has kept a tight lid on full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

"Even when our members in the cabinet as the president questions concerning the implementation of the ceasefire agreement, the head of state always answers that there is a technical team that is dealing with the issue. But the technical team comprises mainly of members or partisans of CNDD-FDD," he said.

Cimpaye said the opposition party supports calls by the African Union for a full implementation of the peace agreement with the rebels.

"Of course we support the calls by the African Union, but more importantly, if we go into the election without the rebels being disarmed and disarming the population, then FRODEBU will lose. That is why we need the process to be finished as quickly as possible, but we think that the CNDD-FDD would want to use this in the election," Cimpaye said.

He said the opposition parties are calling on the international community to help organize a credible election in Burundi.

"We did call on the secretary general of the UN so that they can push the government to try and organize an independent and a democratic election without arms. And the precondition is to implement the ceasefire agreement with the Palepehutu FNL, which the government is failing to do," he said.