Burundi

Burundi: AU observer team now complete

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BUJUMBURA, 12 March (IRIN) - Eight Gabonese soldiers arrived in the capital, Bujumbura, on Wednesday, thus bringing to 43 the number of the African Union's (AU) ceasefire monitors in Burundi. Their arrival brings the force to its full complement.
They are joining their colleagues from Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Gabon and Togo to monitor Burundi's fragile ceasefire, signed by the government and all but one of four Hutu rebel factions, the exception being Agathon Rwasa's Forces nationales de liberation. The first observers had arrived on 12 February and started work immediately, the AU's resident representative in Burundi, Mamadou Ba, told IRIN.

"The commander of the team, Lt-Col Tahar Ayari of Tunisia, accompanied by my military adviser, has already visited the places where the observers will be deployed," he said.

These are the provinces of Ruyigi in the east of the country, Makamba and Kayanza in the north, and Gitega at the centre. Ba said they would also visit Bubanza in the northwest and Muyinga in the north.

"That is not all, they are in regular contact with UN agencies working in Burundi, to know the situation prevailing on the ground: the security, humanitarian and human rights situations," Ba added.

The AU, the continent's foremost political body, has sent observers to shore up the Burundi ceasefire talks. A larger peacekeeping force is also expected.

Meanwhile, fighting continues in Burundi amid fears that if the force fails to arrive the peace process will be threatened. One of the signatories to the ceasefire, Pierre Nkurunziza's faction of the Conseil national pour la defense de la democratie, complained on 25 February that it had not been consulted on the deployment of the observers, nor on the plan to send peacekeepers, and warned that it would not vouch for their safety.

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