Sporadic fighting in Burundi that began in April 2008 between the government and the Party for the Liberation of the Hutu People (Palipehutu-FNL) rebel group ended on May 26, 2008 with the signing of a ceasefire agreement. A regional summit in Bujumbura on December 4, 2008 concluded with Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza and FNL leader Agathon Rwasa signing a communique that committee parties to begin disarmament and demobilization of rebels, allot 33 government posts to FNL members, and release all political prisoners and prisoners of war. While implementation is slow, both parties have shown signs of good faith. On January 3, 2009 the government began releasing political prisoners and on January 9 the FNL, in an effort to become a registered political party, changed its name from Palipehutu-FNL to FNL. The FNL removed Palipehutu from its name to come into compliance with the country’s constitution which prohibits ethnic references in the names of political parties.
After months of delay, the FNL began demobilization on March 17, 2009 with 3,000 soldiers at an assembly site west of Bujumbura. In addition to the demobilization of these soldiers, over 100 child soldiers were released and transferred to the Gitega Demobilization Centre for reintegration. The process to demobilize and reintegrate ex-combatants, initially scheduled for completion by the end of 2008, faces many delays due to issues of adequate demobilization facilities. It is estimated that 19,000 FNL ex-combatants must go through the process. In a recent agreement reached in South Africa, the government and the FNL agreed to integrate about 3,500 FNL rebels into the national army and police force.
The country faces enormous challenges due to the history of violence, extreme poverty of the area, and the needs for development. However, Burundi’s peace is holding, and the country has made enormous strides forward.