- Further evidence has been produced to support the claims by the governments of Burundi and Rwanda. Eyewitnesses say that the 13 August massacre of Congolese Tutsis was carried out by Congolese and Rwanda elements. The Burundian rebels that claim responsibility are reported not to have been in the area at the time.
These eyewitness accounts are referred to in the latest report on the situation in Burundi by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, released today. Two UN peacekeeping missions are currently probing the massacre at the Gatumba refugee camp in Burundi.
According to the eyewitnesses given much weight in Mr Annan's report, a rebel group from Congo Kinshasa (DRC), along with Rwandan elements had committed the terrible crime. Witnesses further were saying that the Burundian rebels who claimed responsibility for the slaughter were elsewhere at the time.
In his first quarterly report on the UN peacekeeping operation in Burundi (ONUB), the UN Secretary-General recalls that Burundi's National Liberation Front (FNL) immediately claimed responsibility for the 13 August massacre of 160 minority Congolese Tutsi, or Banyamulenge, refugees in the country.
But "eyewitnesses reported to ONUB that FNL had actually attacked a nearby Burundi Armed Forces base, while Congolese Mayi-Mayi and Rwandan ex-FAR/Interahamwe elements carried out the Gatumba massacre," he says. The infamous ex-FAR/Interahamwe are Hutu extremist groups that are partly responsible for the 1994 genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda. The militias have operated relatively freely in Congo since 1994.
- FNL later stated that it had attacked the refugee camp as an act of retaliation for the support armed Banyamulenge refugees had provided to Burundi Armed Forces when attacked by FNL, Mr Annan says. "For its part, FDLR has denied any involvement in the attack."
The UN Secretary-General voices concern that the massacre could be followed by heightened ethnic tensions, and calls on the parties "not to let this horrific incident set them back after years of progress towards peace and development." He stresses the need to ensure that all groups in Burundi are able to participate meaningfully in the government and economy.
The political parties of Burundi's minority Tutsi population have proposed revising the August 2000 Arusha Agreement and later peace pacts by replacing two vice-presidents from different ethnic groups with one veto-wielding Tutsi vice-president, according to the report. They would also replace the required 30 percent of legislative representatives from other ethnic groups in their parties with Tutsis.
- It should be noted that by law political parties must be ethnically mixed; that is, every party must have a 30 per cent minimum representation of each ethnic group, Mr Annan writes. Elections had been scheduled to take place by 31 October, but President Domitien Ndayizeye's Cabinet has sought to postpone them for a year.
The proposal by the Tutsi parties was welcomed by Vice-President Alphonse-Marie Kadege's Union pour le progress national (UPRONA), but rejected by the Conseil national pour la defense de la democratie-Forces pour la defense de la democratie (CNDD-FDD) and Jean Minani's Front pour la democratie au Burundi (FRODEBU), Mr Annan says.
The UN was however urging the parts to negotiate. "ONUB has encouraged the parties to separate the technical aspects of electoral planning from the political negotiation, in order to move forward with the organization of elections," the report says.
With Burundi's security sector reforms and election preparations falling behind schedule, by the end of last month donors had contributed less than US$ 10 million of the US$ 156 million in assessed contributions the UN General Assembly approved for ONUB, Mr Annan says. Donors are still looking at Burundi as a war zone were investments stand at risk of being destroyed, an ONUB official recently noted.
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