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Rebels Accused of Carrying Out Burundi Massacre

Witnesses accuse rebels of carrying out Burundi massacre, Annan says

While two United Nations missions probe the mid-August massacre at the Gatumba refugee camp in Burundi, Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in a report released today that eyewitnesses blamed a rebel group from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), along with Rwandan elements, saying the Burundian rebels who claimed responsibility for the slaughter were elsewhere at the time.

In his first quarterly report on the UN Operation in Burundi (ONUB), the 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 Great Lakes country.

But "eyewitnesses reported to ONUB that FNL had actually attacked a nearby FAB (Burundi Armed Forces) base, while Congolese Mayi-Mayi and FDLR (Rwandan ex-FAR/Interahamwe) elements carried out the Gatumba massacre," he says.

"FNL later stated that it had attacked the refugee camp as an act of retaliation for the support armed Banyamulenge refugees had provided to FAB forces when attacked by FNL. For its part, FDLR has denied any involvement in the attack."

The 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 per cent 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 says.

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 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.

"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," he says.

With Burundi's security sector reforms and election preparations falling behind schedule, by the end of last month donors had contributed less than $10 million of the $156 million in assessed contributions the UN General Assembly approved for ONUB, Mr. Annan says.

Again, of the $21 million election budget recommended by ONUB and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and welcomed by donors, only $1 million from UNDP has come in, he adds.


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