- After more than a decade of civil war, Burundi has a chance to conclude its peace process "but only if it holds to its tight election schedule," according to a new report. Within five months, Burundi is to hold a constitutional referendum, local, national assembly and senate elections, and finally, a selection of the president by parliament.
The International Crisis Group (ICG), a Brussels-based political think-tank, today released its latest report on the conflict in Burundi, termed "Elections in Burundi: The Peace Wager".
The briefing paper is a strong support for the country's ambitious electoral timetable, which foresees a referendum on the constitution and several election processes within the next five months. It is "not going to be easy, but it is possible, indeed necessary, to finalise the push for peace in Burundi," the ICG concludes.
- The calendar appears reasonable and realistic, comments Suliman Baldo of the Crisis Group. "Still, there are many things to be done. All the funds necessary to conduct an electoral census and to organise the referendum have not yet been released."
Burundi's political transition was to have ended with general elections on 31 October 2004. But even though it was not possible to adhere to the original deadline established by the Arusha peace agreement, the peace process in Burundi is on its way to becoming a success, the report found.
Negotiations on power-sharing and a post-transition constitution have been completed, and the remaining rebel force still fighting in the field is too weak to upset the arrangements.
The desired consensus was not attained, but the majority of the so-called Tutsi political parties that had originally opposed the constitution finally acknowledged it at the eleventh hour. The new interim constitution, based on the Arusha agreement, took effect on 1 November and is scheduled to be submitted to referendum on 22 December.
The UN's peacekeeping mission in Burundi, ONUB, has completed its deployment throughout the country, and "the sustained support of the international community is vital to carry the peace process to fruition," the ICG report emphasised.
ONUB's present mission is to assist Burundi not only in the organisation of elections but also in the process of disarming, demobilising and reintegrating combatants as well as in the creation of a new national army. Continued financial support for this process is essential to its success.
- The process will not be credible, however, without the necessary international support, says Susan Linnee of the Crisis Group. "Burundi cannot achieve peace on its own. This tortured country needs immediate, sustained commitment," she added.
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