Cablegate: Nkurunziza's Face-to-Face with Fnl's Rwasa


DE RUEHJB #0466/01 1761349
P 251349Z JUN 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) Summary: In an unprecedented meeting, Burundi
President Pierre Nkurunziza and PALIPEHUTU-FNL rebel leader
Agathon Rwasa met privately on June 18 in Dar es Salaam,
marking a significant milestone in the resuscitation of the
September 2006 ceasefire agreement. The two men agreed that
the FNL would submit a list of FNL political prisoners,
whose release will help to revive the ceasefire process. In
closing their tte--tte, President Nkurunziza and Mr. Rwasa
exchanged personal telephone numbers to show their commitment
to heading off additional roadblocks to the ceasefire
implementation. End Summary.

2. (U) Burundi,s President Pierre Nkurunziza met with
PALIPEHUTU-FNL head Agathon Rwasa on June 18 in Dar es
Salaam. At a June 20 briefing in Bujumbura conducted for the
diplomatic corps, the Burundi Special Representative for the
President of the African Union, Ambassador Mamadou Bah, and
the United Nations Secretary General Executive Representative
in Burundi, Youssef Mahmoud, reported that the meeting
between the Nkurunziza and Rwasa ended with agreement over
the following points:
- There is a commitment to reviving the JVMM process in
fully implementing the September 2006 ceasefire agreement;
- The PALIPEHUTU-FNL will provide Burundi,s Ministry of
Justice a list of what the FNL considers political
- Nkurunziza and Rwasa will give instructions to their
respective parties to continue the implementation of the
ceasefire agreement; and
- Each time an issue arises which threatens the continuation
of the peace process, Nkurunziza and Rwasa will personally
take measures to ameliorate the situation. The two leaders
exchanged personal telephone numbers in support of this

Behind Closed Doors

3. (U) Mr. Mahmoud explained that after a seemingly
intractable blockage of progress with the Joint Verification
Mechanism and Monitoring (JVMM) process, the African Union
(AU) and the United Nations in Burundi (BINUB) requested the
regional intervention team, including South Africa,s
President Thabo Mbeki and President Jakaya Kikwete of
Tanzania, to help kickstart the implementation process of the
September 2006 ceasefire agreement. Prior to the meeting in
Dar es Salaam, President Kikwete and the facilitation team
met with Rwasa and others on the margins of the event to
define the objectives for the gathering and to offer their
assistance and participation if necessary. Tanzanian
President Kikwete, expressing his desire for direct
involvement and delaying his departure for Uganda, first met
separately with President Nkurunziza and the FNL rebel
leader. Bah and Mahmoud could not provide the details of
these preparatory meetings. Upon the completion of the
Kikwete meetings, Nkurunziza and Rwasa finally met privately
behind closed doors.

4. (U) As a condition for the resumption of the JVMM, the
PALIPEHUTU-FNL has consistently requested the release of
political prisoners,. In his discussions with President
Nkurunziza, Rwasa agreed to submit a list of perhaps 2,000 to
3,000 names of imprisoned FNL members whom he considers to be
political prisoners,. The Government of Burundi,s
(GOB,s) Ministry of Justice will then determine whether the
individuals on the list are political prisoners, or
criminals, per the ceasefire agreement. In response to a
question concerning the surprisingly high number of
combatants on the list, Ambassador Bah suggested that it may
have been better to consider a wider range of names rather
than for either side to pre-determine individual eligibility.
Ambassador Bah speculated as well that the source for the
number of potential political prisoners, may have been
Tanzanian newspapers and not a figure necessarily agreed upon
during the private meeting between the two leaders.

5. (U) In responding to another query, Ambassador Bah
addressed the perceived absence of any movement on the
question of power-sharing, as the PALIPEHUTU-FNL is
integrated into facets of the military and the government.
Ambassador Bah speculated that the question of
power-sharing, was, in all likelihood, discussed during
the meeting, but that each side may have been lacking the
political support at the meeting to fully discuss the issue
and to make progress. In Ambassador Bah,s view, the issue

is no longer a question of reshuffling to achieve numerical
balance but rather one of a more strategic nature. The
absence of any mention of these discussions does not,
however, indicate that it was not a topic at some level, Bah

What next?

6. (U) According to Ambassador Bah and Mr. Mahmoud,
President Nkurunziza and Rwasa may meet again in Bujumbura;
however, it is unclear when Mr. Rwasa might travel to
Burundi,s capital city. Mahmoud stressed that everyone
involved in the continuation of the peace process, including
the diplomatic corps and international organizations, needs
to be vigilant to any signs or maneuvers which would delay
the implementation of the ceasefire agreement. He asked that
the United Nations and regional partners take the necessary
steps to encourage continued dialogue and progress. He
opined that everyone needs to keep their ears to the
ground, for future roadblocks to success. The World Bank
representative to Burundi, Allasane Sow, emphasized that
further delays with the ceasefire implementation will hamper
Burundi,s ability to meet international financial

7. (U) When queried on the future role of the facilitators
in the peace process, Mr. Mahmoud stressed the importance of
a universal message of mutual trust and confidence, a common
comprehension of the issues, and seeking practical measures
for removing blockages to progress. Mr. Mahmoud also
suggested that it is necessary to de-politicize, this
meeting between Nkurunziza and Rwasa and, instead, support
the ongoing facilitation beyond the technical aspects to make
significant progress in the JVMM. Ambassador Bah added that,
despite the PALIPEHUTU-FNL,s desire to have international
observers present during all negotiations, no parties outside
of the Burundian government should participate in the
meetings as these interferences, only serve to
politicize, the process.

8. (U) Both Ambassador Bah and Mr. Mahmoud characterized
the atmosphere of the Dar es Salaam meetings as friendly and
jovial. GOB officials and PALIPEHUTU-FNL members greeted
each other casually and amicably. There did not appear to be
any hidden agendas or reservations in the manner or content
of speeches given by either side, according to Bah and
Mahmoud. They commented that the congeniality can best be
exemplified by the concluding group photo, with the two major
players standing side by side, and everyone in smiles.


9. (SBU) The Nkurunziza-Rwasa meeting clearly indicates that
both men are making good-faith efforts towards
reconciliation. The apparent conviviality between not only
the principals but also their respective teams during the
meetings belied the initial expectations of international
observers. This may suggest that the gap between the two
sides may be narrower than previously thought and that
prospect for ultimate reconciliation are commensurately more
promising. Both men recognize that Burundi,s long-term
stability and economic development depend to a large extent
on the country,s ability to achieve a durable peace. The
evolution of this process may ultimately depend, in turn, on
their willingness to use their personal hotline, which
they opened in Dar es Salaam. End Comment.

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