So tonight I fly out of London on Ethiopian Airlines first to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, then stop briefly in Kigali, Rwanda before arriving in Bujumbura, Burundi tomorrow at 1 p.m. Bujumbura, where I’ll be living, is the capital of Burundi and has about 800,000 residents.

Many people have asked if I am apprehensive about leaving for Burundi. In general, I am quite at peace with myself because I know that this is exactly what I want to be doing with my time, and I have been thinking about it for almost a year. In a more specific way, though, one concern is the recent violence outside of Bujumbura between the government forces and the Palipehutu-FNL rebel group. More than 100 people have been killed and 20,000 or so have fled their homes in the past month.

What is behind this conflict? It is certainly not a simple case of ethnic conflict between Hutu and Tutsi. What then are they fighting about?

A little background first. The strict division between a Tutsi-run military dictatorship and Hutu rebels that existed since the 1960s came to an end with a peace deal agreed upon in 2000. This made possible a ceasefire between the government and the largest Hutu rebel group, the CNDD-FDD in 2003. That same year, the Hutu dominated, but ethnically mixed FRODEBU party won the elections and peaceably took power. In the 2005 elections, the CNDD-FDD party won the presidency.

A ceasefire with the other rebel group, the Palipehutu-FNL (or just “FNL”), was not signed until 2006, and has not been followed. Why hasn’t the government (lead by a former Hutu rebel group) been able to come to agreement with a Hutu rebel group?

The FNL have a number of grievances – they would like to be protected by an amnesty, request the release of their members who are prisoners, want positions within the government and want their some of their members to be integrated with the army. So far the government has been reluctant to make the concessions to their own power and (democratically achieved) positions that would make this possible.

The good news is that a delegation of exiled leaders of the FNL are planning to travel to Bujumbura on May 14th to discuss the ceasefire.

That may not be enough to put my family at ease yet, but one can hope it will lead things in a positive direction.

And with that, I must be off to catch my flight!