The protagonists in Burundi's civil war
From Monday, Tanzania hosts a new regional bid to end Burundi's
civil war, which has pitted the army, largely drawn from the Tutsi minority,
against Hutu rebel groups, mainly the Forces for the Defence of Democracy (FDD).
Here is a profile of the main protagonists in a conflict which has
claimed an estimated 250,000 lives in the central African country, which borders on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to the west, Rwanda to the north and Tanzania to the east.It also has a border on Lake Tanganyika.
- The Forces for the Defence of Democracy (FDD) were created in 1993
after the assassination of Burundi's first democratically elected president,
Melchior Ndadaye, a Hutu, during a military coup bid on October 23.
Ndadaye's death was followed by ethnic massacres, which marked the
start of the long civil war.
The main wing of the FDD has been led since October 2001 by Pierre
Nkurunziza, after the dismissal of Jean-Bosco Ndayikengurukiye, who
today heads a dissident splinter wing of the movement and has little representation of the ground in Burundi.
"Pierre Nkurunziza heads a group of combatants whose numbers are put
at between 10,000 and 12,000 men, mostly based in Tanzania," according to
a Burundi specialist who prefers not to be named.
The Burundian army estimates that there are more than 10,000 FDD
fighters, but fewer than 4,000 of those are active today within the country.
Jean-Bosco Ndayikengurukiye is "believed to have around 5,000 men,
almost all based in the Democratic Republic of Congo," the specialist said. His
wing of the FDD signed a peace protocol with the government on August 26.
But this document has not been implemented to date.
- The rebel National Liberation Forces (FNL) are also prey to
On August 8, Alain Mugabarabona, who had until then been in charge
of the movement's foreign relations, announced that he had been named "interim president" of the FNL and would go into peace talks with the
However, FNL leader Agathon Rwasa swiftly declared that he was still
in charge. To prove it, he launched a series of attacks against Bujumbura,
the country's capital, and said he would not not negotiate with the
government except on certain conditions.
The army and independent observers agree that Rwasa appears to be in
control of the large majority of FNL rebels.
Several sources agree that the movement has about 3,000 fighters,
who operate in the west of Burundi and around the capital.
The movement is far older than the FDD. It was set up in Rwanda in
the 1970s and developed in Tanzanian refugee camps among people who had fled a wave of ethnic massacres in Burundi in 1972.
- The army is seen by many people in the Tutsi minority (about 14
percent of the population) as a rampart against those among the Hutus (85 percent) who they fear could carry out a genocide. The military is dominated by Tutsis and "can count on 45,000 men in active service and 10,000 in reserve," the specialist said.
The army is backed up by 20,000 men known as "guardians of the
peace" -- a force mainly consisting of Hutus.
While the top military brass are almost all Tutsis, "the Burundian
army has been recruiting enormously among Hutus in the past 10 years," the
specialist said. "Today, Hutus make up more than 40 percent of the ordinary
troops, but there are fewer of them among the junior and non-commissioned
Copyright 2002 Agence France Presse
Agence France Presse
October 5, 2002 Saturday