- The gathering of some 3,000 combatants of the National Liberation Front (FNL) in the Rugazi commune, 35 kilometres North of the capital Bujumbura, to take part in the agreed dismantling and disarming programme clearly signals hope for lasting peace in Burundi.
Until recently, the FNL was able to assemble a little over 150 fighters.
In an effort to honour their group's agreement with Bujumbura, FNL leaders decided to assemble the combatants. The recently signed deal assured the integration of FNL rebels into the East African nation's security and defence forces.
According to the rebel movement's spokesman, Pasteur Habimana, the onus now lies on the government to take the next step which includes "specifying the posts reserved to our movement in the institutions, armed forces and elsewhere." Mr. Habimana declared that from now on "the war is over."
The movement headed Agahon Rwasa has been engulfed in sharp division, with its main rebel group and political wing, the Party for the Liberation of the Hutu People (Paliphetu) accusing each other of " bad faith." The political wing had become the only active movement since the signing of the 2003 peace accord that nailed Burundi's decade-long civil war.
Army spokesman Lt. Colonel Adolphe Manirakiza was delighted with the massive turn-out, and described it as a positive development to the peace process. He said the government would honour its promise provided the healthy process is not altered.
In early July, the rebel movement suspended assembling of fighters, insisting that the government should recognise Paliphetu as a political party.
In 1993, Burundi slided into a civil war, which was sparked by the rebels from the majority Hutu population who were angered by the dominance of the minority Tutsi tribe, especially in the army. At least 300,000 people were reportedly killed in the war.
The establishment of a power-sharing government in 2001 could not guarantee peace as clashes continued between the government and some rebel groups. A mediation by South Africa allowed Burundian to breathe an air of peace.
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