South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma said on Tuesday that Ethiopia, Mozambique and South Africa had agreed to supply troops to support the ceasefire in Burundi until a UN peacekeeping force could be deployed, but the operation required urgent funding from the African Union (AU). "The challenge is with us, we should act fast," Zuma was quoted as telling the AU's Central Organ of the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
But Henry Boschoff, an analyst with the Pretoria-based Institute of Security Studies said that while Zuma stressed the need for the deployment of a multinational force, the key stumbling block was that the rebel Parti de liberation du peuple hutu-Forces nationales de liberation (FNL) led by Agathon Rwasa remained outside the ceasefire agreement.
"The biggest problem would be how to implement a peacekeeping operation without one of the warring parties signing the ceasefire agreement. How can you expect Burundian forces to go into defensive positions if they are attacked by FNL? It will be a Chapter 6 mandate [peacekeeping rather than peace enforcement] and the prerequisite would be that everybody signs the agreement," Boschoff said.
The SAPA news agency reported Zuma as saying that he hoped the FNL would sign at a meeting of the belligerents to be chaired by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in South Africa on 16 January. The Ethiopian Walta Information Centre said that Zuma had also appealed to the central organ to urge Rwasa to cooperate.
An additional problem, Boschoff said, was the procedural and logistical headache of deploying a minimum of three battalions of peacekeeping troops to Burundi. The Mozambicans, with a small post-civil war army, "would arrive with little more than the clothes on their backs," Boschoff said.
"Zuma was asking for the troops to be in Burundi before the end of January, but that would not be possible. From the AU approving the mission and mandate, you need to appoint a force commander, send an evaluation team, draw up an operation plan and then draw up a force ... I've spoken to the military planning guys [in South Africa] and they knew nothing about a [proposed] deployment and have no political guidance," he said.
Zuma said the AU should take advantage of the expressed readiness of the UN Security Council to backstop the mission and ceasefire implementation process, Sapa reported. In its communiqué, the central organ appealed to the UN to make "a substantial contribution" towards the implementation of the ceasefire agreement. The central organ also urged the AU's partners "to provide financial and logistical assistance towards the rapid deployment of the African mission and the implementation of the ceasefire agreements".
The UN Security Council recently expressed support for the immediate and full implementation of the ceasefire agreements in Burundi. It also mandated UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to "respond positively" to requests for assistance towards setting up the African mission.
According to Boschoff, "the United States, Belgium, France and even Britain have shown a lot of interest" in a Burundi settlement. "In theory the money could be available, but the issue is how quickly it could all be set up and the FNL brought on board."
South Africa already has a 700-strong military outfit in Burundi to protect Hutu political leaders taking part in the transitional government.
Tel: +27 11 880-4633
Fax: +27 11 447-5472
[This Item is Delivered to the "Africa-English" Service of the UN's IRIN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations. For further information, free subscriptions, or to change your keywords, contact e-mail: IRIN@ocha.unon.org or Web: http://www.irinnews.org . If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Reposting by commercial sites requires written IRIN permission.]
Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2003