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Rebel leader returns to Burundi for peace deal

Latest update : 2008-05-31

The top leader of Burundi's last active rebel group, Agathon Rwasa, returned from exile Friday, four days after he signed a truce with the government, raising hopes of an end to a 15-year civil war.

The exiled leader of Burundi's last rebel group returned to the capital on Friday to begin implementing a stalled deal seen as the final obstacle to peace in the tiny central African country.
 
Agathon Rwasa, leader of the Forces for National Liberation (FNL), arrived at Bujumbura airport with the South African mediator for talks between his ethnically Hutu group and Burundi's mixed but Hutu-led government, a Reuters reporter said.
 
"I know the situation is not yet where everyone wants it to be but I am sure we can fix this together. I am going home optimistic that things will turn out just fine," Rwasa said before departing from Tanzania earlier on Friday.
 
He made no immediate statement upon arrival at the airport, where he was greeted by hundreds of cheering supporters. He was met by diplomats, government officials and flanked by South African soldiers.
 
Officials said he was due to meet President Pierre Nkurunziza, himself a former Hutu guerrilla leader elected in 2005 as part of an African-brokered peace agreement backed by the United Nations.
 
The FNL was not part of that deal. The group signed a separate pact with the government nearly 20 months ago but it has stalled over disagreements, and sporadic fighting has broken out.
 
Clashes between Burundian troops and rebels have killed nearly 100 people in recent weeks. The coffee-growing nation is emerging from more than decade of ethnic conflict that has killed some 300,000 people.
 
Analysts say the rebel faction numbers less than 3,000, a claim the FNL disputes.
 
Rwasa joins other top FNL officials who arrived in the capital two weeks ago from neighbouring Tanzania which has led
peace efforts for years.
 

Date created : 2008-05-30

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