Tuesday, 15 January 2008

News from Burundi: Not a Very Happy New Year

Reports late last fall suggested that the long-standing battles in Burundi might be winding down, but that appears not to be happening. Monday IRIN, the UN’s information agency, reported that about 1,400 families-- 8,400 persons in all--have been forced from their homes in Burundi’s northwest province of Bubanza. Fighting between government forces and the rebel Forces Nationales de Libération (FNL) flared again in late December, with clashes on Dec. 28 and January 9.

According to Laurent Kagamba of the local government, the internally displaced persons (IDPs) “need food aid, blankets - the region is very cold - as well as cooking utensils, as all their properties have been looted. Even if it was time for the harvest of beans and maize, they cannot access them.”

Burundi, the non-identical twin to Rwanda in Central Africa’s Great Lake District, has been the scene of conflict since 1993 when trouble between Hutus and Tutsis broke out. Nelson Mandela helped broker a government of reconciliation in 2000, but progress has been slow. According to IRIN, although the FNL signed a ceasefire accord with the government in September 2006, it has not been fully implemented. The FNL walked out of talks over security last summer, and they "have since been accusing the facilitator, South African safety minister Charles Nqakula, of bias."

A personal note: as readers of this blog may remember, I spent some time in Burundi in 2001 as I did research for my novel The Violets of Usambara. On Friday the spring catalogue for the publisher Cormorant Books arrived, announcing the publication this spring of Violets. How sad that Burundi's travails continue!

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