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Burundi Government, Rebel Group, Prepare for Talks

The government of Burundi and the country's remaining rebel group are to meet Monday for peace talks in Tanzania.

The National Liberation Forces rebel group is the last holdout against efforts to end Burundi's civil war.

Annociate Ndikumasabo is executive director of Observatoire de l'Action Gouvernementale, an advocacy group that analyses government policies.

She tells VOA, much is at stake in the talks between the rebel group and the government.

"All Burundians are waiting for these talks to take place and to be carried out with wisdom, because Burundians have been suffering from war for too many years, and I think they have enough of that. So, I would call every one of them to really get engaged in the talks, and to offer Burundians the gift that they are waiting for, that is, an agreement," said Ndikumasabo.

Burundi's civil war broke out in 1993, after the Tutsi-dominated army assassinated the country's first democratically elected president, who was a Hutu.

Tutsis make up about 15 percent of Burundi's population, yet, until recently, they dominated the army and political sphere.

A peace process beginning in 2000 led to democratically held elections last year. Under the terms of the peace initiative, rebel groups were to be integrated into the army and government.

But the National Liberation Forces, known as the FNL, has not been. The group has fought periodic battles with government forces as recently as last week.

Advocacy group chief Ndikumasabo urges the government to negotiate in good faith, and says the rebel group is running out of options.

"I do not think that the FNL has many chances to have a military victory. On the ground, [they are] the only movement that is fighting. All the others have joined the peace process. And, I think, if they [FNL] are not engaged in these talks, it will be a missed opportunity," said Ndikumasabo.

But observers say the two sides differ in their goals for the talks, which will be held under South African mediation.