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In Burundi, UN Admits FNL Rebels Fired Katyusha Rocket, Provenance Left Vague

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

UNITED NATIONS, May 22 -- The FNL rebels in Burundi fired a Katyusha rocket during their most recent drive on the capital, Bujumbura, the UN acknowledged on Thursday. The FNL,
Party for the Liberation of the Hutu People - National Liberation Forces, are in on-again, off-again peace talks with Burundi's government.  Inner City Press had heard from Burundian sources that this rocket -- "we never heard those rockets before in Bujumbura," one said -- was the basis for alleging a link between the FNL and the FDLR militia in the Eastern Congo.  The FDLR, in English the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, is comprised of ethnic Hutu from Rwanda. But when Youssef Mahmoud of the UN Integrated Office in Burundi was asked, he said "we do not deny that the Katyusha rocket was fired," but we have no credible evidence to link it to the FDLR. Video here, from Minute 4:46.

            Fair enough. But where did the rocket come from, then?

            The UN's operations in Burundi, which were requested to protect 46 opposition parliamentarians on February 28, did not offer any protection before a March 8 grenade attack on four of the legislators. Thereafter, the UN asked the government to condemn the attacks, and checked up on the level of protection the government was providing. Inner City Press asked if, between the February 28 request for protection and the March 8 attacks, the UN had told the requesters that no help would be provided. We are in touch with the opposition, Mr. Mahmoud replied.

FNL in Burundi, Katyusha rocket not shown

            Many senior leaders of the FNL have been in Tanzania. Burundi officials says that the FNL is being squeezed out of Tanzania, and that many of the leaders "can't live in the bush," and so surrender. The FNL's forces are dwindling, they say. But Katyusha rockets can multiply forces.

    When Inner City Press asked Karen Pierce, the Deputy Permanent Representative of the UK, which hold the Council presidency this month, about discussions of FNL connections with the FDLR, she acknowledged it was discussed, but said that the link had not been proved. She said that the issue of providing protection in Burundi had not been discussed, but rather child soldiers and "woman, peace and security." Video here, from Minute 4:06. Asked about the repeated flaming up of conflict in Burundi, she said that "a lot of visibility will help people adhere to their commitments." But when will that lot of visibility come? Discussions of Burundi at the UN take place on the margins.

            On May 21 on the sidelines of the General Assembly's vote for members of the Human Rights Council, Inner City Press asked Norwegian Ambassador Johan Lovald, the head of the UN Peacebuilding Commission's Burundi "configuration" if he thought the Peacebuilding Fund is putting enough money into Burundi. Lovald answered that it might not be a question of too little money but rather of the capacity to spend it. Burundian officials contacted on May 22 by Inner City Press not surprisingly disagreed. We have 17 projects, one of them said. They are not all funded.  It was noticeable that many Security Council delegation had their Permanent Representative leave Thursday's meeting on Burundi well before the end, leaving second-stringers. So it goes for Africa, or most of it.

Footnotes: now if the Katusha rocket were alleged to come from Iran, for example, more senior officials would come to the Burundi meetings....

  Also, Amb. Lovald was asked about Carolyn McAskie's replacement as head of the Peacebuilding Fund. It's still a young entity, Lovald said, it needs a dynamic leader. Inner City Press asked, Jan Egeland? Amb. Lovald only laughed...

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece 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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