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Burundian Opposition Expresses Dissatisfaction With Peace Process

Burundi opposition FRODEBU party is expressing disappointment at the lack of progress with the ongoing peace negotiations between President Pierre Nkurunziza's government and the Palepehutu rebels. This comes after the rebels said they would miss the December 31 deadline to be transformed into a political party. The rebels cited the refusal of President Nkurunziza's government to fully implement the 2006 peace deal as the main reason for not being able to meet Wednesday's deadline. But the government has dismissed the accusation saying it is the rebels who should abide by the 2006 agreement.* *Pancrase Cimpaya is the spokesman for the opposition FRODEBU party.* *He tells reporter Peter Clottey from the capital, Bujumbura that Burundians are worried the rebels would take up arms and begin fighting again.

"I can tell you that Burundians are very disappointed because we consider the peace process as a big challenge and the Burundians are expecting peace for good. But unfortunately the peace Burundians are seeking for is far away," Cimpaya noted.

He said the Nkurunziza government has deliberately kept secret all negotiations with the rebels.

"The situation is the peace process between the government and the Palepehutu FNL (Forces for National Liberation) is like a hidden agenda because it is something strictly between the CNDD-FDD (ruling party) and the Palepehutu FNL. And I can tell you that we are members of the cabinet, but unfortunately, we don't know exactly the time table of the talks. And all the information we get about the peace negotiations we got from the media, and that is a pity," he said.

Cimpaya said opposition party concerns about being kept in the dark about the ongoing peace negotiations have fallen on deaf ears so far.

"We do complain every time. We even complained to the international community, especially to the facilitators. And nowadays they are admitting that it was wrong for other parties to put aside other parties, especially those in cabinet or those in the national assembly (parliament). We don't know what is happening and unfortunately we are not moving forward and now the deadline is not being respected," Cimpaya pointed out.

He faulted the government for refusing to fully implement the 2006 peace agreement with the rebels.

"The situation is that they are not implementing the ceasefire agreement and even the power sharing. What he heard through the media is that the head of state decided to give whatever he wants and now the Palepehutu FNL is complaining. And the issue of the power sharing has not been so far discussed between the two parties," he said.

Cimpaya said the government is refusing to ensure an amicable solution to the problems with the rebels.

"I think that there is no will to move forward. I think the most important thing for the government or the CNDD-FDD should worry about is the election. I think they are afraid of the Palepehutu FNL because the situation right now is in bad situation and the opposition is becoming powerful day by day. And maybe the CNDD-FDD doesn't want the Palepehutu FNL to come in because it would be a bad thing to get the rebels inside because it would make th8ings difficult for them to handle the opposition," Cimpaya pointed out.

The rebel Forces for National Liberation (FNL) are asking peace mediators to ensure they are given more time to complete the change from a rebel group into a political party. The rebels also called on President Nkurunziza's government to set up assembly areas for rebel fighters as well as provide them with food and medicine.

But some observers said the political and military integration of the FNL rebels might be the last barrier to providing stability in Burundi.

Meanwhile, South Africa, which has been leading mediation efforts between the rebels and the Bujumbura government is reportedly growing impatient with both sides and issued an ultimatum until the end of this year to complete the peace agreement or risk losing regional support.