- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 5, 2002

ARUSHA, Tanzania Burundian President Pierre Buyoya and Pierre Nkurunziza, leader of the main Hutu rebel forces, signed a cease-fire accord here this week aimed at ending a nine-year civil war.
The deal sealed late Monday between the government and the Forces for the Defense of Democracy (FDD) came after years of tough negotiations. African sources said reconciliation in the ethnically divided Central African nation faces many hurdles.
It is the first time that the Bujumbura government, drawn largely from the Tutsi minority, and the main rebel group, from the Hutu majority, have signed such an accord since the country's civil war began in 1993.
But another Hutu rebel group, the National Liberation Forces (FNL), declared yesterday that the pact between the Buyoya government and the FDD meant nothing to it.
"Only an accord we have negotiated ourselves can commit us to anything, on condition that the preconditions we have set are first implemented by the government," senior FNL member Pasteur Habimana said in Nairobi, Kenya.
He said the FNL would "fight to the last drop of blood" until what he described as "the truth" won out in the bitter conflict that has claimed an estimated 300,000 lives mainly those of civilians.
Mr. Habimana dismissed the FDD as a movement with no power in its own right. The FNL took no part in the lengthy negotiations that led to the agreement between Mr. Buyoya and Mr. Nkurunziza, which is widely hailed as a major step toward ending the ethnic conflict.
The FNL's "preconditions" for peace talks include the return of government soldiers to their barracks, the dismantling of displaced persons' camps set up for Tutsis and Hutus, the disarming of militia units, the release of political prisoners and the recognition of the FNL as a political party.
"The cease-fire accord signed by the FDD does not weaken us, because we never cooperated with them and we never depended in any way on the FDD," Mr. Habimana said.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, mandated by his peers to lead a regional peace initiative, has warned of stringent sanctions against the FNL unless it agrees to negotiations. But Mr. Habimana countered: "The international community should put pressure on the government to have our conditions met, rather than threatening us with sanctions."
He described the FDD as "an emanation of the [Front for Democracy in Burundi] party" the main Hutu political party, which plays an active role in a transitional government formed in November 2001 under a previous Arusha peace accord.
However, responding to a question about this week's deal between the Burundian government and the FDD, Mr. Museveni said the effective date of that cease-fire "will start on Dec. 30, taking into account preparation needed" by the two parties.

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