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BURUNDI

Burundi's government and rebels sign ceasefire deal

2 min

Burundi's government and last active rebel group have signed an unconditional ceasefire agreement. The deal comes after almost six weeks of fierce clashes which killed more than 100 people and displaced thousands.

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Burundi's government and last active rebel group on Monday signed an unconditional ceasefire agreement, raising hopes of a definitive end to the small central African nation's 15-year civil war.

The deal between the government and the National Liberation Forces (FNL) was reached after a six-week round of fresh fighting that left more than 100 people dead and thousands displaced.

"We the Palipehutu-FNL and the government of Burundi... declare on May 26, 2008 an immediate cessation of hostilities," said the joint document signed during a ceremony attended by the press.

The Palipehutu is the rebels' political branch.

Both sides pledged to instruct their forces on the ground to cease hostilities within six hours of the signing, which took place at 9:30 am (0730 GMT).

"The significance of this declaration for the government of Burundi and the Palipehutu-FNL is that the war should finally end and Burundians enjoy lasting peace and stability," the agreement said.

"This is the first time that such a declaration of cessation of hostilities is signed," said FNL spokesman Pasteur Habimana. "For Palipehutu-FNL, this means the war stops forever."

General Evariste Ndayshimiye, chief government negotiator and top military aide to President Pierre Nkurunziza, signed the agreement for the government side.

Also present at the signing was South African mediator Kingsley Mamabolo.

The conflict in Burundi has left at least 300,000 people dead in 15 years and fears of a fresh had mounted of fresh bloodletting when combat resumed on April 17.

FNL leaders have since returned to Bujumbura from exile to resume talks. A ceasefire agreement was reached between the two sides in 2006 but its implementation never got off the ground.

Both sides waived most of the pre-conditions they had laid for a ceasefire but the rebels obtained that their forces be given supplies.

The latest spate of clashes erupted six weeks ago when FNL rebels launched a major attack in and around Bujumbura.

The government retaliated with a massive air and land operation that sent rebels back to the hills surrounding the capital.

The rebels had asked for the deployment of an international intervention force before signing an agreement.

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