Day dedicated to combatants, ‘A bone of contention’

Burundi ruling CNDD-FDD celebrates the week dedicated to combatants to pay tribute to the valiant fighters who died on the battlefield. The party’s leaders say Burundi got peace and democracy on 16 November 2003 when the rebel movement CNDD-FDD signed a global cease-fire with the transitional government of the time. Some politicians accuse the ruling party of excluding other war veterans.

Leaders of ruling CNDD-FDD celebrating the day dedicated to combatants on 18 November, in Cibitoke

Leaders of ruling CNDD-FDD celebrating the day dedicated to combatants on 18 November, in Cibitoke

Under the theme “Combine our efforts to achieve sustainable development of the country to honor the valiant fighters perished,” the presidential party CNDD-FDD celebrated last week a week dedicated to former combatants. At its official opening on 16 November, the secretary general of the ruling party, Evariste Ndayishimiye said Burundians celebrate the victory achieved on 16 November, 2003 when the CNDD-FDD rebel movement signed a global ceasefire with the then transitional government. The agreement based on the Arusha Peace Accord signed in August 2000 to end a civil war that erupted in 1993 after the assassination of President Melchior Ndadaye. “Today is a peace day,” said Ndayishimiye. The day not only belongs to members of CNDD-FDD but also to all Burundians since they enjoy the peace that currently prevails in the country thanks to the “victory” of the CNDD-FDD, he added.

On that occasion, Burundi President, Pierre Nkurunziza recalled Burundians that no foreigner will love Burundians more than the Burundians themselves. As the president of the wise council of CNDD/FDD he called on CNDD-FDD members to be vigilant in their fight against all the enemies of the country. “Let’s always be vigilant in the fight against the enemies of the country, democracy and peace,” said Nkurunziza.

He also called on the Bagumyabanga (members of the ruling CNDD-FDD party) to remedy the difficult situations that Burundi has experienced for years.

Some war veterans claim to be left to fend for themselves

Some war veterans from former CNDD-FDD movement or the FNL rebel movement or the former Burundian Armed forces (FAB) before the integration of rebel movements, say they are not socially assisted.

T.G a former CNDD-FDD rebel, says he fought for several years. He regrets that he is abandoned after losing his leg. “I am currently a cripple, destitute and have been abandoned,” he said. This man of about forty years currently living in Buterere Zone of Bujumbura calls on the ruling CNDD-FDD and government to assist all former combatants without any distinction. For him, some former rebels have been reinstated in the Burundian army and police while others are totally abandoned. He says he was unable to participate in the commemoration of his fellow soldiers killed in war because he no longer has the strength to attend political rallies. As for former rebels of the Forces for National Liberation (FNL), some were able to integrate with local communities but others did not have the chance to return to their former lives. “Since we left the rebel movement, we have not received any social assistance,” said a former member of the FNL rebel movement.

For AgathonRwasa, leader of the former FNL rebel movement, the day of the former combatant should be organized at the national level and include all former rebels including the members of the former Burundian army before the integration of rebel movements. “CNDD-FDD party should not appropriate the day of the combatant because it was neither the only one to fight in Burundi nor won the fight.

This day of the fighter was established in 2004 during an extraordinary congress of members of CNDD-FDD party in Gitega central province.