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Recent Massacre Overshadows Burundi Summit - 2004-08-18


In Tanzania, at least five African heads of state are among those gathering to come up with a power-sharing agreement for a new government to end Burundi's 11-year-old civil war. Last week's massacre of more than 150 Tutsis at a refugee camp in Burundi is threatening to derail the power-sharing summit.

Leaders and ministers from eight African nations are meeting in Tanzania's capital Dar es Salaam in a second attempt to finalize a power-sharing deal for Burundi's new government.

The summit comes weeks after Tutsi parties rejected a plan that would see power split 50/50 between ethnic Hutus and Tutsis in the senate and 60/40 between Hutus and Tutsis in the national assembly.

The leaders had hoped Wednesday's summit would mark the beginning of a new chapter in Burundi's fragile peace process.

But analysts say last week's attack on a refugee camp in Burundi in which more than 150 Tutsi refugees were killed is likely to overshadow the power-sharing talks.

A Burundi expert with the South African-based Institute for Strategic Studies, Jan Van Eck, says Tutsis are likely to feel less trustful and more fearful after the attack, and will probably be much less willing to compromise.

"This attack, having heightened tensions and ethnic fears, will obviously make them, you know, more determined not to give away any further power," he said. "They will say that their security cannot be guaranteed and this attack on this camp will demonstrate that."

Burundi's current transitional government was created under the terms of an agreement signed four years ago in Arusha, Tanzania. The agreement calls for an election to be held this year.

Mr. Van Eck added that new Hutu political parties that have been formed since the Arusha agreement argue that the Tutsis are over-represented in government structures.

Tutsis make up about 15 percent of Burundi's population.

Uganda's presidential spokesman, Onapito Ekomoloit, says last week's attack should not reverse the many gains that have been made in Burundi's peace talks throughout the years.

Mr. Ekomoloit argues that elections, rather than Wednesday's summit, should be the place where power-sharing issues are sorted out.

"Some of these issues can only be solved by undisputed elections," he said. "Apparently, it is not fair for anybody to try and discuss power sharing outside the electoral framework."

Eleven years of fighting between Hutus and Tutsis have claimed more than 300,000 lives.

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