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Negotiations Begin for Burundi Peace Agreement

The government of Burundi and the country's remaining rebel group signed an agreement to begin negotiations that would end more than a dozen years of civil war.

The head of the political party known as CNDD, Leonard Nyangoma, tells VOA that he and the other parties that are represented in Burundi's government are generally pleased with the deal.

On Sunday, the government and the Forces for National Liberation signed an agreement in nearby Tanzania to cease hostilities for two weeks, during which time they would negotiate a permanent cease-fire to end 13 years of conflict.

Nyangoma says the signing is a solid, first step to peace.

"It is a good thing. I read it this morning. That is proof that there is a will to commit to negotiations from the two parties," said Nyangoma. "It is a good thing also that the government, which took a long time to accept negotiations with the FNL [Forces for National Liberation], will sign such an agreement.

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 factor that sparked the war that killed about 300,000 people.

A peace process beginning in 2000 culminated in democratically held elections last year. The peace process called for the various rebel groups fighting in the war to be integrated into the army and government.

The Forces for National Liberation has yet to do so.

The CNDD, which Nyangoma heads, is one of the several political parties that were former rebel groups and are now in the government and army.

He says that, while he is happy that the two sides agreed to negotiate, they failed to spell out the details of how these talks are to take place.

"The agreement is not clear," he noted. "This agreement does not show the agenda. What they will negotiate - nothing. It is empty. There is no methodology of negotiations. Remember that when we started negotiations in Arusha [Tanzania] in 1998, we made an agenda of five points with a methodology."

Nyangoma says that representatives from his and the other parties that make up the government should be included in the upcoming negotiations so as to contribute their experience, know-how, and so that the final peace deal can be accepted by parliament.