Cablegate: Burundi's Major Opposition Parties Desperate For

DE RUEHJB #0559/01 2191411
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E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: The leaders of Burundi's major opposition
parties, Front for Democracy in Burundi (FRODEBU), Leonce
Ngendakumana, and Union for National Progress (UPRONA), Aloys
Rubuka, both insisted that dialogue between Burundi President
Pierre Nkurunziza's government and the two largest opposition
parties as well as pressure from the international community,
with possible facilitation by a third party, is imminently
critical to maintaining Burundi's peace and progress.
FRODEBU's Ngendakumana spoke frankly and forcefully about the
government of Burundi's (GOB) stymied negotiations withthe
PALIPEHUTU-FNL, FRODEBU's participation inthe government, and
the need for Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza to initiate
a dialogue among the major political entities. Ngendakumana
refuted the rumors of a direct link of his party to the
PALIPEHUTU-FNL, and justified FRODEBU's recent departure from
the government as their only constitutional option as an
opposition party. In contrasting styles, UPRONA's Rubuka
quietly expressed his party's desire for Nkurunziza and the
ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy - Forces
for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) party to demonstrate
goodwill by engaging UPRONA and allowing them to be active
contributors to Burundi's political future. He suggested
that the ruling party overcome their pride and take the
responsibility for creating a framework for dialogue.
Claiming UPRONA to have never taken action to sabotage the
government's policies, he shared the party's disappointment
at being ignored. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Leonce Ngendakumana, leader of Burundi's second
largest political party, met with Ambassador Moller early in
the afternoon of August 2. In assessing the current
atmosphere in Burundi, Ngendakumana characterized the
nation's social, economic, and political climates as reasons
to worry for the future. He stated that although the country
is enjoying relative peace and the support of the
international community, the struggle to adopt dialogue as a
tool for progress in the political arena is still illusory.
As a party, Ngendakumana stated that FRODEBU is asking the
government to act in three areas: to govern responsibly by
abiding by the constitution; continue the negotiations for
peace with the PALIPEHUTU-FNL; and to fight corruption within
their ranks.

3. (SBU) Ngendakumana accused the ruling CNDD-FDD party of
having no intention of negotiating with the PALIPEHUTU-FNL.
As proof, he outlined President Nkurunziza's initial weak
attempts to attract the rebel group to the negotiating table
and Nkurunziza ultimately becoming complacent as the he
allowed his police forces to harass, mistreat, and prosecute
FRODEBU members and others as being part of the
PALIPEHUTU-FNL, an assumption FRODEBU has denied in the past
and continues to deny today. Having been forced to
participate in the ceasefire talks in Dar es Salaam in
September 2006, according to NGendakumana, the GOB signed a
'false agreement'; an agreement that cannot be genuine if it
does not adequately define the role of the PALIPEHUTU-FNL in
the government or the military. When asked to speculate the
reasons for Nkurunziza's inability to move the peace process
forward, Ngendakumana suggested that the military wing of the
CNDD-FDD is sympathetic to the PALIPEHUTU-FNL and pressuring
the Burundi president not to continue the negotiations. When
pressed to elaborate, the FRODEBU party leader described
those influencing the president as being inexperienced,
having their own logic, and wary of FRODEBU's numbers (those
thought to be friendly to the PALIPEHUTU-FNL) in influential
positions as reasons behind their behavior.

4. (SBU) Ngendakumana spoke at length concerning FRODEBU's
participation in Nkurunziza's government. Foremost, he
accused the Nkurunziza of ignoring Burundi's constitution by
excluding FRODEBU and other minority parties from key
positions in his government and disregarding other voices in
formulating policy. Ngendakumana explained that after the
2005 elections, FRODEBU and UPRONA, as the second and third
largest political forces, expected to be invited to
discussions with the PALIPEHUTU-FNL aimed at sustaining the
peace. They were not. More recently, the FRODEBU leader
stated that the GOB sacked a number of FRODEBU members,
including those who had been legitimately elected to serve.
When FRODEBU asked the ruling party the reasons for these
dismissals, Ngendakumana alleged that the CNDD-FDD simply
said that FRODEBU does 'not accepted that we (CNDD-FDD) are
the winners'.

5. (SBU) In clarifying FRODEBU's recent decision not to
actively participate in Nkurunziza's government, Ngendakumana

BUJUMBURA 00000559 002 OF 003

explained that his party had decided to be a member of the
opposition and, according to Burundi's constitution, party
members cannot be in opposition and participate in the
government at the same time. Ambassador Moller pressed
Ngendakumana for elaboration to this rule, supporting her
question by explaining that democracies require minority
voices and self-exclusion invites blame for any future
problems that may arise in the affairs of state.
Ngendakumana recognized the need to be a part of the
democratic process but specifically pointed to provisions
within the constitution limiting FRODEBU's role as an
opposition party. Ngendakumana conceded that the political
situation has only worsened since FRODEBU's exodus from the
government. Although FRODEBU has reluctantly returned to the
business of government, primarily due to a threat from the
World Bank to suspend disbursement of 40 million USD of
developmental funds, Ngendakumana feared that FRODEBU's
participation legitimizes the corruption of Nkurunziza's
administration, acts for which he believes Nkurunziza needs
to be prosecuted and punished.

6. (SBU) Ngendakumana claimed a recent rise in executive
corruption as being the result of the blockage of progress at
all levels of government. He opined that the outlook for
improvement is not good primarily because the ruling CNDD-FDD
party no longer holds a majority in Parliament and is thus
unable to pass laws. Ngendakumana alleged that, in response,
Nkurunziza is appointing people, whom Ngendakumana
characterized as corrupt, into new positions and Ngendukamana
also insinuated that the ruling government may be tempted to
use force in loosening the legislative logjam.
Alternatively, in Ngendakumana's opinion, the government has
three options for skirting the current political stalemate:
Nkurunziza can call a state of emergency; Nkurunziza can
dissolve the National Assembly (which may be prohibited by
law); or, the government can try to change the constitution
(which would be difficult without a majority voice).
Moreover, Ngendakumana pondered why the Burundi president has
never spoken directly to the public concerning the
allegations of corruption and the political impasse.

7. (SBU) In a later meeting with Ambassador Moller, UPRONA
party leader, Aloys Rubuka, characterized the current
political malaise as predictable. He claimed that arrogance
and pride have prevented President Nkurunziza and the ruling
CNDD-FDD party from working in good faith and effectively
with the opposition parties. Rubuka alleged that there is a
great deal of scandal within the political, economic and
human rights arenas, and mused as to whether the scandals are
deliberately organized by the government. In Rubuka's words,
unlike FRODEBU and despite the political deadlock at all
levels, UPRONA has decided to continue to participate in the
government and is merely asking for a gesture of goodwill
from Nkurunziza and his CNDD-FDD ruling party. In
conjunction with their participation, the UPRONA party asked
the First Vice President and UPRONA member, Dr. Martin
Nduwimana, not to sign any governmental proposals without
consulting the party. Rubuka reasoned that the UPRONA party
is not ready to accompany a regime that does not respect the
constitution and warned Nduwimana that non-compliance with
their demand would lead to internal party strife.

8. (SBU) Rubuka lamented that the political situation was
heading 'nowhere'. The party leader accused the government
of corruption by offering jobs only to political allies,
threatening the loss of jobs to others who are less
compliant, and using the threat of violence to prevent UPRONA
from attending party meetings. In Rubuka's view, these are
efforts to divide allegiances within the other political
factions. He complained that Nkurunziza is spending more
time out of the office rather than working in good faith to
resolve the impending political crisis. As a result, feared
Rubuka, the Burundi leader is fomenting a bad impression of
the minority parties with the public. Furthermore, he added,
the continuing tensions between the parties are weakening the
parties, Burundi is wasting valuable time and energy, and the
confidence of the international community could diminish.

9. (SBU) Party head Rubuka emphasized that the UPRONA party
is more than ready for dialogue between the principal
politucal players. He noted that UPRONA has never taken any
action to sabotage the government's policies and has always
made known to Nkurunziza UPRONA's availability and
willingness to contribute to the government's efforts at
improving the political and economic environment. Rubuka
nonetheless expressed disappointed that their offer is

BUJUMBURA 00000559 003 OF 003

essentially being ignored and he questioned why Nkurunziza
has chosen the path of moving froward without UPRONA. Rubuka
asserted that the major responsibility for developing a
framework for dialogue lies with the Nkurunziza and his
ruling party. He believed that the CNDD-FDD party, after
coming to power following a divisive civil war, should be a
party of modesty and refuse to let pride prevent it from
reaching concessions with minority voices.

10. (SBU) Comment: Although their styles of delivery and the
desires of their respective parties may be different,
Ngendakumana and Rubuka expressed a common goal: to begin a
dialogue with Nkurunziza's government to prevent a total
collapse in the political and economic structures of Burundi.
The government's apparent reluctance, thus far, to engage in
a meaningful, constructive dialogue with opposition leaders,
particularly these two influential minority parties, has
raised widespread concerns for the future of the democratic
process in Burundi and the welfare of its people. The
perception that the President has sought to distance himself
from the debate has exacerbated these concerns. At the very
least, Nkurunziza should get ahead of the issues FRODEBU and
UPRONA raise and publicly communicate to the Burundi people
that he is working honestly and in good faith to resolve the
political differences between his government and the
opposition parties as well as the PALIPEHUTU-FNL. With this
end in mind, meetings between the embassy and key opposition
members are continuing in an effort to grasp the various
perceptions of the political environment. At the conclusion
of these informational sessions, the embassy intends to find
an opportunity to facilitate discussion between these
disparate political factions in reaching common ground for
moving Burundi's political process forward. End Comment.

© Scoop Media

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