UN to take over African peacekeeping force in Burundi
BUJUMBURA, June 1 (AFP) - The United Nations is Tuesday due to take over the command of and begin expanding a peacekeeping mission deployed in Burundi last year by the African Union.
The tiny central African country is emerging from a devastating civil war ignited in 1993 when factions drawn from the large Hutu majority took up arms against the Tutsi led government and army.
The conflict has killed at least 300,000 people and left the economy in ruins.
All but one of the rebel groups, the National Liberation Forces (FNL), have recently made peace and joined a power-sharing government, restoring peace to all but a tiny area of the country surrounding the capital.
The handover ceremony is sheduled to take place at a football pitch in the capital, Bujumbura, at 3:00 pm (1300 GMT).
On May 21, the UN Security Council passed a resolution approving the deployment of a peacekeeping mission in Burundi, ONUB.
The 2,700 African Union (AU) troops from South Africa, Ethiopia and Mozambique will be incorporated in the new force, which will eventually number 5,650, including 200 observers, 125 staff officers, 120 police officers and civilian personnel.
The UN force has a six-month renewable mandate.
Lack of adequate funds is the main reason the AU had to cede control of its first military mission.
The first extra forces in the new mission are due to arrive over the next two weeks and its full complement is expected by mid August.
The newcomers will come from Pakistan, Nepal, Angola and Mozambique, according to the UN.
"ONUB's mandate is to support Burundi's efforts to re-establish sustainable peace," explained UN political advisor Diego Zorrilla.
He added that ONUB was also mandated to push ahead with the implementation of the Arusha accords, power-sharing arrangements signed in Tanzania in 2000.
The transitional institutions set up in November 2001 under the Arusha accords are meant to be replaced by an elected administration in November this year.
"ONUB will contribute to creating an environment favourable to holding elections," said spokesman Kemal Saiki.
Yet five months before the polls are due, almost nothing is ready.
On Friday, the government suggested delaying them by a year, a proposal rejected by the largest of the former rebel groups, the Forces for the Defence of Democracy.
"The international community wants this target date respected, but we cannot force the polls to be held," said Saiki.
"ONUB's arrival is timely because the idea of delaying the elections could jeopardize the peace process," commented a European diplomat in Bujumbura.
"Its arrival will boost the process. It means the international community wants things to moves forward. It will stabilise the government, facilitate the influx of aid... all that will help the current president," Domitien Ndayizeye, said the diplomat.
Copyright (c) 2004 Agence France-Presse
Received by NewsEdge Insight: 06/01/2004 07:56:22
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