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Situation In Burundi Still Very Fragile, UN Report

Situation in Burundi still very fragile, Secretary-General warns

20 May 2008 - The fresh outbreak of fighting in Burundi could roll back valuable progress made since a peace agreement was reached in 2000, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon cautioned in a new report made public today.

"The recent rapid relapse into violent conflict is alarming evidence of the extreme fragility of the situation in Burundi," Mr. Ban wrote in his report, covering the period from 23 November last year to 7 May, to the Security Council.

Strongly condemning the continued deadly clashes between the Government and the Palipehutu-FNL - the last major rebel hold-outs after the end of the brutal civil war between the Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority - he said that "nothing justifies the loss of innocent lives resulting from this fighting."

More than 100 people have been killed in and around the capital Bujumbura in the past few weeks, despite the signing of the Comprehensive Ceasefire Agreement in 2006.

The Secretary-General warned that unless this pact is not "put back on track, the new cycle of violence could undo all the gains painstakingly made by the people of Burundi since the signing of the Arusha Agreement eight years ago."

Furthermore, he voiced concern that the resumption of hostilities and political instability in the small Central African nation could threaten the stability of neighbouring States and the entire Great Lakes region.

Ultimately, the responsibility for ending over 10 years of clashes rests with the Government and the FNL, Mr. Ban stressed, calling on both parties to end fighting and jump-start dialogue in a bid to push the peace process forward.

He urged the FNL to return to Burundi and take part in the Joint Verification and Monitoring Mechanism and the Political Directorate, which are components of the ceasefire, while appealing to the Government to prioritize that Agreement's implementation.

In addition to putting the ceasefire into place and breaking the political stalemate, the Secretary-General said other issues spurring insecurity must be tackled.

Reintegration of ex-fighters must press ahead, and "in an environment characterized by abject poverty, high unemployment, and sharply rising fuel and food prices, former combatants are likely to turn to violent crime or join armed elements," he said, adding that the current global food crisis is also a cause for concern.

On human rights, the report noted that while numbers of violations committed by the national defence forces remained the same, those committed by the police have risen while new cases of torture and summary executions by the national intelligence service have been reported.

Mr. Ban welcomed the work of the UN Peacebuilding Commission, established to help countries recovering from war from sliding back into conflict, for its "valuable support to efforts at promoting stability in Burundi."

ENDS

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