Rights groups urge respect for ceasefire

Local and international human rights campaigners on Sunday denounced violence which they said was "blindly directed at the civilian population" in Burundi, and urged the army and rebels to respect a ceasefire agreement reached on 2 December 2002.

A statement issued in Paris by the Federation internationale des droits de l'homme (FIDH), and its member organisation Ligue Burundaise des droits de l'homme (Iteka), condemned violations of the ceasefire which were "mortgaging the settlement of the Burundian conflict".

According to the statement, there was fierce fighting in April in several provinces, notably Bujumbura Rural, Muramvya, Gitega, Ruyigi, Kayanza and in Bujumbura city. It said that a FIDH mission which visited Bujumbura from 15-20 April found "yet again a climate of fear and insecurity prevailing in the Burundian capital".

The human rights campaigners called on the transitional government to pursue dialogue with rebels so that progress made in the peace process was not wiped out.

Meanwhile, Burundian news agency, Netpress, on Friday quoted President Domitien Ndayizeye as saying that rebel groups which did not sign up to the peace process would be "very aggressively fought". Ndayizeye, a Hutu, took over as president on 30 April from Pierre Buyoya, a Tutsi, in accordance with the terms of a peace agreement to end the country's civil war.

News agencies on Friday quoted the leader of the main rebel group, Conseil national pour defense de la democratie-Forces pour la defense de la democratie (CNDD-FDD), Pierre Nkurunziza, as saying the group would do its best to ensure implementation of the ceasefire agreement, but it reserved the right of "self-defense".