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Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

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In Burundi, FNL Rebels Decry Lack of Resources While UN Speaks of Political Will

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, September 13 -- Burundi, one of two countries among with Sierra Leone targeted by the UN Peace-building Commission, is growing ever-more insecure, Norwegian Ambassador Johan Lovald told a handful of reporters at the UN on Thursday. During Amb. Lovald's recent visit to Bujumbura, the Forces Nationales de Liberation fought again with the government. Inner City Press asked Amb. Lovald what the UN is going to do about the FNL's claim that the international community has not come through with promised economic support, and the FNL's distrust of the appointed mediator, South African security minister Charles Nqakula. Video here, from Minute 8:27.

            Amb. Lovald said he was not aware of any promises of financial assistance to the FNL; he mentioned a recent demand for what he called "a considerable amount of money, $54,000" to attend peace talks. "These issues have not been a problem in the past," he said, saying that the real problem is "political will" to continue in the talks.

            But what if the problem is money? Should the Peace-building Commission be willing and able to spend money, even in unconventional ways, to keep a peace process going, if without peace, rebuilding cannot occur? By contrast to Burundi, in dealing with Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army, the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs funneled money to help build an airstrip for the LRA. While the UN says that the decision to spend the money was made by the mediators, including the vice president of South Sudan, the fact remains that in case of the LRA, money was spent to keep indicted war criminals involved in peace talks, while in Burundi, a much-hyped process may be falling apart for lack of what may not, in context, be that "considerable" an amount of money.

Suffering in Burundi, UN Peace-building Commission not shown

            "We have informed the international community that our movement is no longer accepting Charles Nqakula as mediator because he showed that he is on the government side", FNL spokesman Pasteur Habimana has been quoted as saying. Amb. Lovald did not respond to questions about the independence and objectivity of Charles Nqakula, saying only that the international community should support the regional process - i.e., Nqakula. Perhaps the strategy is to count on splits in the FNL, which certainly do exist. But to hinge the future of the UN Peace-building Commission's work in Burundi on someone else entirely solving the FNL problem may be unwise.

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  Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540