Burundi

Burundi: Zuma ends peace mission

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NAIROBI, 17 January (IRIN) - South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma ended on Thursday a four-day visit to Ethiopia and Burundi to gather support for the deployment of an African mission force in Burundi.
Zuma arrived in the Burundi capital, Bujumbura, on Wednesday, after a meeting on Tuesday in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, with the African Union's (AU) Central Organ of the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution.

"The visit was highly successful. I am delighted that the AU Central Organ accepted my proposal for it to support the deployment of an African Mission in Burundi," the South African Press Association quoted Zuma as saying on arrival in the South African administrative capital, Pretoria. "We were also able to impress upon the Burundian political players to implement the decisions they have taken. It is urgent that mechanisms are put in place for the implementation of all ceasefire agreements."

Zuma announced on Wednesday that South Africa, Ethiopia and Mozambique would by the end of the month deploy troops to monitor the ceasefire between the Tutsi-dominated Burundi army and the rebels.

Burundi President Pierre Buyoya, a Tutsi, signed a peace deal with the head of the main Hutu rebel group, Forces pour la defense de la democratie (FDD), in Arusha, Tanzania on 3 December. However, the truce has since been broken, with fighting between government troops and rebels reported in Bujumbura.

Zuma dismissed as "insignificant" a protest outside his hotel in Bujumbura on Thursday. The group, believed to be a banned paramilitary group known as Amasekanya, was protesting against the presence of South African troops in Burundi. "We are not bothered by the antics of a few extremists who do not represent the views of the peace-loving Burundian majority," he said.

The protest was broken up by security forces. An AFP correspondent reported that police had made one arrest.

South Africa already has 700 soldiers in Burundi, standing guard duty for politicians who came back from exile to take part in a transitional government formed in November 2001 under a peace and power-sharing plan.

Before departing Bujumbura, Zuma told the AFP that the peacekeeping troops would deploy in Burundi on an African mission despite the resumption of fighting between the army and rebels.

During his Addis Ababa visit, Zuma met the interim chairman of the Commission of the African Union, Amara Essy, and discussed wide-ranging issues including conflict resolution in the continent and, in particular, the role the AU should play in the implementation of the cease-fire agreements in Burundi.

[ENDS]

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