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This book is a product of a research project called ‘voices of youth’ carried out - page 28 / 125

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A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa

The crisis of 1993-2003 In 1993, Melchior Ndadaye took over as President of Burundi following the country’s first democratic elections. Within months of Ndadaye being sworn in, however, he was assassinated. The years which followed saw several waves of violence, including a series of revenge-inspired massacres of one ethnic community by the other, as well as a regular war waged between the government and rebel movements such as the National Council for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD), which demanded the restoration of constitutional law and the reform of the security forces.

Poverty, a colonial legacy of division, and the interests of other states in the region and beyond, all played a part as factors contributing to the war. These often found their expression in ethnic differences. Since Independence in 1962, Burundi experienced cycles of political/ethnic violence, especially in 1965, 1972, 1988 and 1993. The round which started in 1993 proved to be the most destructive in human lives, and lasted 12 years. These wars were characterised by massacres between the two main ethnic groups (Hutus and Tutsis), while Burundi’s third ethnic group, the Batwaa, have been so deeply marginalised that they have rarely played an active part in political life. However, ethnic differences have usually been at least partially offset by other forms of difference, for example between regions of the country, between descendants of aristocratic and commoner clans, and between rural and urban populations.

The peace process In 1998, external mediators (initially Tanzanian and later South African government representatives) initiated a lengthy process of peace negotiations. A power-sharing government was set up in 2001, following the signing, in Arusha, Tanzania, in August 2000, of a peace agreement between the main parties involved in the war. In October 2003, a further agreement was signed in Pretoria, South Africa, between the government and the CNDD-FDD (the main branch of the original CNDD). The Arusha Accords, as these agreements came to be known, between them set out both a comprehensive cease-fire and a detailed plan for reconstituting democracy in Burundi.

After a formal transition period overseen by United Nations peace-keeping forces, elections in 2005 saw an unequivocal electoral victory by CNDD-FDD (which had become a political party early in 2005), and the installation as President of one of CNDD-FDD’s leading figures, Pierre Nkurunziza. In September 2006, the second main rebel group, the National Liberation Front (FNL) in turn signed an agreement with the CNDD-FDD government and joined in the reintegration process. The newly elected government, supported by the United Nations and the international community, is now engaged in a programme to demobilise militias, reform the army and police, reintegrate ex-combatants, return refugees and displaced persons,

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