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Burundi President, Main Rebel Leader Sign Peace Accord - 2003-11-16

The president of Burundi and the leader of the country's main rebel group have met in Tanzania to sign a peace accord that may end 10 years of civil war.

Burundi President Domitien Ndayizeye and the leader of a faction of the Forces for the Defense of Democracy, Pierre Nkurunziza, signed the accord at a summit in Dar es Salaam.

African leaders who witnessed the event included Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano, Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila, and South African Vice President Jacob Zuma.

Under the accord, Mr. Nkurunziza's section of Forces for the Defense of Democracy becomes a political party and will have representation in the country's government by the end of November.

Also, the rebel Hutu fighters will be integrated into Burundi's armed forces, currently dominated by the minority Tutsi ethnic group.

There are also provisions to grant temporary immunity from prosecution to both sides.

The signing in Dar-es-Salaam formalizes an agreement the government and rebels made in South Africa's capital Pretoria earlier this month.

But the signing was dampened by the absence of the National Liberation Forces, another Hutu rebel group that has refused to join in the peace process. The group, which just last week attacked sections of the capital Bujumbura, insists on negotiating directly with the Tutsi-dominated army.

The 10-year-old civil war in Burundi has cost an estimated 300,000 lives. The war began after the Tutsi-dominated army assassinated the then-president, a Hutu.