BUJUMBURA, Dec 5 – Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka has asked all parties involved in the Burundi peace process to hold themselves accountable for making real progress.,
He said they must be willing to make concessions and sacrifices in order to break the stalemate for the sake of the people of Burundi.
“The leadership in the region recognises the grave implications of the impasse in the process not only for the people of Burundi and indeed the Great Lakes Region,” he said.
Mr Musyoka pointed out that the conflict has had devastating effects in the social, economic and political conditions of Burundi and neighbouring states.
He expressed concern that the conflict had led to the loss of 300,000 lives and the displacement of one million people. “This indeed is a great human tragedy,” he said.
The security situation in Burundi drastically deteriorated following the renewed fighting between the Pelipe-hutu rebels led by Chairman Agathon Rwasa and government forces loyal to President Pierre Nkurunziza in April 2008.
This came after talks between the two sides for cessation of hostilities through the Magaliesvurg declaration.
However, two outstanding issues remain the demand by Pelipe-Hutu for a 50-50 power sharing and the registration of Pelipe-Hutu FNL as a political party.
The government has resisted the two demands, saying a 50-50 power sharing agreement was not realistic because positions must also go to members of other ethnic groups.
The government insists that Pelipe-Hutu has to abandon usage of the ethnic leaning name which translates to ‘Party for the Liberation of the Hutu People’ saying this is not good for the stability of the country of eight million people comprising different ethnic groups.
Mr Musyoka was speaking at a summit in Bujumbura attended by Presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Rupiah Banda of Zambia, the host Pierre Nkurunziza, Prime Ministers of Rwanda Bernard Makuza and Tanzania Mizingo Pinda.
Mr Musyoka who is representing President Mwai Kibaki at the Summit later held a press briefing where he announced that the success of the conclusion of the peace process was crucial for the peace in the region.
“We are here to iron out the remaining issues that stand on the way towards the successful implementation of the peace process which was signed in 2006 and was threatened by a resumption of hostilities in May this year,” he said.
The Vice President pointed out that overlying issues included in the contentious power sharing arrangement and the name of the political party which Pelipe-Hutu should adopt in the new dispensation is addressed.
The peace accord signed in Tanzania in 2006 provided for cessation of hostilities between the two sides and demobilisation of armed groups who were to be integrated into the national army.
The peace agreement held until May this year when there was an outbreak of hostilities leading to further talks facilitated by South Africa which led to a cease fire.
The mandate of the South African facilitation of peace process expires by the end of this month hence the importance of the peace summit.
The leaders expressed hope that a final settlement would be realised or the summit may decide to extend the South African facilitation to arrive at a resolution aimed at consolidating the peace process.
The conflict in Burundi dates back to the late 1950s but intensified in 1993 when Burundi’s 1st democratically elected President, Melchio Ndadaye was assassinated by Tutsi extremists. Since then over 300,000 people have been killed in a civil war that broke out.
“Given the history of the conflict in Burundi and the importance of peace in the Great Lakes Region, we have come with the goodwill of Kenyans and our support to ensure that the people of Burundi find a lasting peace,” Mr Kalonzo declared.
Kenya and Burundi enjoy a cordial bilateral relationship with Burundi being a key trading partner.
Burundi imports substantial commodities manufactured in Kenya. Kenya’s embassy in Burundi was officially opened in May this year.
The first Kenya-Burundi joint commission on cooperation will take place in Nairobi next year.
There are about 200 Kenyans working and living in Burundi. The country exports coffee, tea, sugar, cotton, hide and skins through the port of Mombasa. Manufactured goods, food stuffs and petroleum products pass through Kenya to Burundi but the balance of trade between the two countries is in favour of Kenya.