Cablegate: Scenesetter for Visit of Codel Payne


DE RUEHJB #0396/01 2131939
P 311939Z JUL 08




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Your visit to Burundi comes as the country
grapples with the many challenges facing nascent democracies.
The last remaining rebel group, the PALIPEHUTU-FNL, signed a
cessation of hostilities agreement in May following several
weeks of violent attacks that left over 100 people dead; the
troublesome details of a permanent peace agreement are being
negotiated and demobilization of the rebels is underway. The
painstaking negotiations between the Government of Burundi
(GOB) and the PALIPEHUTU-FNL are further complicated by the
upcoming 2010 elections, as each side vies for support from
overlapping Hutu constituencies. In addition to the
PALIPEHUTU-FNL and the ruling CNDD-FDD party, political
parties from across the spectrum are staking out strong
positions in advance of only the second round of
post-conflict elections. The "winner take all" politicking
has also greatly affected the National Assembly, and CNDD-FDD
parliamentarians ended a one-year plus legislative stalemate
through a constitutionally questionable dismissal of 22
uncooperative lawmakers in June (ref A). The National
Assembly has functioned normally since the dismissals.

2. (SBU) Burundi must also meet the challenges of addressing
a rising HIV/AIDS problem, developing a post-conflict economy
in a country with few natural resources, ending widespread
corruption at every level, continuing democratization,
demobilization, and security sector development, and
improving healthcare, education and its human rights record.
The GOB has taken a major step towards becoming a larger
player in African affairs by contributing troops to the
African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM). END SUMMARY.

4. (SBU) Despite a 2006 cease-fire agreement, the
PALIPEHUTU-FNL launched a series of mortar and rocket attacks
in and around Bujumbura in April, leading to clashes with GOB
forces that left more than 100 dead. A measured and
militarily successful GOB counterattack, combined with
international pressure and an ultimatum that the rebels
return to talks or face expulsion from their Tanzanian
refuge, brought the PALIPEHUTU-FNL back to negotiations in
the capital in May. The parties signed an agreement
declaring an immediate cessation of hostilities May 26, but
still face significant stumbling blocks before a lasting
peace is achieved. While over 2400 rebel combatants reported
to a containment camp on July 21, they handed over less than
40 weapons to their African Union guards, a gesture seen as
disingenuous by the GOB and many international observers. It
would be helpful if you would encourage Burundian government
officials to finalize negotiations with the PALIPEHUTU-FNL to
ensure a durable peace and set the stage for free, fair and
transparent elections in 2010.

Demobilization and Security Sector Reform
5. (SBU) The World Bank has pressed Burundi to reduce its
ethnically-balanced military from 27,500 to 25,000 troops and
its police force from 18,000 to 15,000. At the same time, as
part of the peace deal, the GOB will likely agree to
integrate a large portion of the largely Hutu PALIPEHUTU-FNL
into the already-overlarge security forces (while the
PALIPEHUTU-FNL claims 15,100 combatants, most observers put
the number closer to 5,000). Maintaining the
constitutionally-mandated ethnic quotas in the security
forces and finding livelihoods for those who will be
demobilized will pose significant problems. The primary
funding source for demobilization comes from the
Multi-Country Demobilization and Reintegration Program funded
by the World Bank and other bilateral donors; these funds are
due to expire at the end of 2008.

6. (SBU) Professionalization of the security forces is also
critical, as significant numbers of the police and army are
former rebels themselves and have received little formal
security training. While the Dutch and the UN in particular
are assisting police and military leadership in developing
their professional capacities, further support and attention
would likely lead to increased stabilization in post-conflict

7. (SBU) With significant U.S. support, in late 2007 the GOB
deployed an 850-strong battalion on its first ever overseas
mission in support of AMISOM. The battalion, and three
additional battalions which will augment/relieve the first
battalion, received extensive training through the State
Department-financed Africa Contingency Operations Training
and Assistance (ACOTA) program. A second battalion is
scheduled to deploy before the end of the fiscal year, and is
currently awaiting delivery of additional equipment.

Democracy Challenges

8. (SBU) Upcoming 2010 Presidential and Parliamentary
elections are profoundly affecting politics and political
discourse in Burundi. Generating political dialogue among the
GOB, civil society and political parties at this early stage
could help prevent potentially devastating consequences
(including the violent aftermath that plagued Kenya), which
could occur as a result of poorly planned and executed
elections. There is a genuine need to educate political
parties, security forces and the general public on their
roles, responsibilities and reasonable expectations during
and after a democratic election. PALIPEHUTU-FNL
demobilization, the return of tens of thousands of refugees
who dispute ownership of long-abandoned plots, significant
hikes in food and fuel prices, and a fractious political
climate are genuine causes of concern in the run-up to 2010.
The GOB has published guidelines for a re-established
independent Electoral Commission, but has so far failed to
name any candidates. It would be helpful if you would urge
your GOB interlocutors to quickly name and approve a truly
independent Electoral Commission to ensure free and fair

9. (SBU) The prevalence of HIV infection has increased from
3.5% in 2002 to 4.2% in 2007, and more than 265,000 of
Burundi's 800,000 orphans are the result of HIV/AIDS. Data
from antenatal clinics show a sharp spike in infection rates
among patients aged 15 - 24; infection levels doubled from
8.6% in 2004 to 15.5% in 2005. U.S. programs, valued at $3.1
million, have been implemented in three provinces and urban
Bujumbura, reaching 2.4 million people in a country of eight
million. The Department of Defense is also providing testing
and consultation services to Burundian military personnel; a
clinic is planned in the near future. As the only bilateral
donor implementing comprehensive programming, the U.S.
provides anti-retroviral treatment, care and support,
prevention education, and system strengthening. However,
Burundi receives significantly lower levels of PEPFAR funding
than neighbors Tanzania, Rwanda, Zambia, Kenya, Uganda and
the Democratic Republic of Congo, risking Burundian lives and
regional reinfection.

Refugee returns taxing scant resources
10. (SBU) According to UNHCR, over 42,000 refugees have
returned to Burundi in 2008 following the closure of several
refugee camps in Tanzania. This return has proved difficult
for the GOB to accommodate due to the country's scant
national resources, and has prompted increasing conflict over
land ownership in densely populated Burundi. While the
majority of the refugees fled ethnic conflict in Burundi in
1993, more than 5,000 recent returnees have lived outside
Burundi since the ethnic violence of 1972. The Government of
Tanzania has offered citizenship to the 1972 group still
residing in Tanzania, but more than 40,000 individuals have
opted to return, often without land, family or even the
language of their native Burundi. UNHCR expects that up to
90,000 refugees from 1972 and 1993 will return in the next
two years as the UNHCR closes out its camps in Tanzania.

National Assembly Functioning Again
11. (SBU) After a year-plus stalemate in the National
Assembly that created significant public frustration and
ill-will, the Parliament is once again functioning normally.
The dismissal of 22 CNDD-FDD parliamentarians that supported
deposed CNDD-FDD party president Hussein Radjabu rather than
President Nkurunziza broke the legislative deadlock, but was
constitutionally questionable and widely criticized by
politicians and NGOs.
Economy, Business Development and Education
12. (SBU) Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the
world. Per capita GDP in the Maryland-sized nation is
approximately $118, and Burundi recently ranked 167 out of
177 in the UN's Human Development Index. The mainstay of the
Burundian economy is agriculture, which accounts for almost
half of GDP. Approximately 90 percent of the labor force is
dependent on subsistence farming. The main cash crop,
coffee, accounts for more than half of export earnings. Other
principal exports include tea, sugar and raw cotton. USAID
is the lead donor coordinating private sector development,
and is active in developing the specialty coffee and
agribusiness sectors, as well as providing increased access
to microfinancing. USAID focuses on agribusiness, and
developing Burundi's potential for generating income and
employment for the agriculture-based population.

13. (SBU) In order to support Burundi's higher education
initiatives, USAID is funding a partnership between the
University of Ngozi and a U.S. Land Grant University. The
to-be-chosen U.S. university will help the University of
Ngozi establish links with Burundian agribusiness
entrepreneurs and improve Burundian capacity to conduct
agricultural research.

Widespread Corruption
14. (SBU) The local NGO, Association Fighting against
Corruption and Public Funds Embezzlement (OLUCOME), recently
listed 2629 cases of government corruption since 2002 that it
believes have resulted in a loss of more than $250 million in
public funds. The two most high-profile corruption cases are
the sale of the Presidential plane in 2006 to a low-bidder
(ref B) and the irregular payment to oil-importing company
Interpetrol in summer of 2007 (ref C). Although a
Parliamentary Commission has been set up to investigate the
opaque circumstances surrounding the sale of the Presidential
plane, no one has yet been charged nor has the Commission
released any findings. In the aftermath of the Interpetrol
scandal, the Governor of the Central Bank was arrested and
awaits charges in prison; the Minister of Finance fled the
country and is subject to an Interpol red alert.

Human Rights
15. (SBU) NGOs maintain that the GOB needs considerable
improvement in its human rights record, particularly as it
transitions out of a post-conflict situation. Army, police,
and intelligence services are accused of abuses, including
rape, torture, arbitrary arrest, beatings, murder and
corruption. PALIPEHUTU-FNL combatants have also been accused
of a wide variety of offenses, including extortion, theft,
rape and murder. Local NGO Ligue Iteka reported that 71
individuals were killed by security forces in 2007, although
that figure has yet to be verified. Human Rights Watch also
published a 40-plus page report this year that accuses the
intelligence services of torturing over 21 alleged
PALIPEHUTU-FNL sympathizers in 2007. A bill to give women
the same inheritance rights as men sits stalled in the
National Assembly with little political support for its

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