Burundi: Zuma urges AU to deploy multinational peace force

NAIROBI, 15 January (IRIN) - South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma urged the African Union (AU) in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on Tuesday to deploy a multinational peacekeeping force in Burundi as soon as possible to enforce the current ceasefire, the South African Press Association (Sapa) reported.
"Ethiopia, Mozambique and South Africa have agreed to supply troops on a temporary basis until the United Nations deploys a peacekeeping force in Burundi," Zuma was quoted by Reuters as telling the AU's Central Organ of the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution on Tuesday. "The only problem is financing the operation," he added, urging the 53-nation AU to help fund the force.

In a communiqué released on Tuesday from Addis Ababa, the central organ authorised the African Commission "to deploy, as early as possible," a group of AU observers to facilitate communication between the parties. Their task, it said, would be to help in "reducing the risk of violations of the truce, and carry out any other tasks as shall be agreed with the parties" to create and consolidate confidence among them.

"The situation is very urgent. The African troops should be deployed in Burundi as soon as possible so as to prevent the cease-fire agreement from failing," the Ethiopian Walta Information Centre quoted Zuma as saying.

Walta reported that Zuma had also appealed to the central organ to pressure rebel leader Agathon Rwasa to sign the ceasefire agreement, which other parties to the conflict had already signed. So far, three of four armed groups are signatories to the ceasefire agreement. The Parti de liberation du peuple hutu-Forces nationales de liberation, led by Rwasa, remains the only armed group still outside the peace process.

Zuma said the AU should also 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.

For its part, the AU appealed to all parties to extend maximum cooperation to Zuma, and expressed support for the urgent deployment of the multinational African peace force. To this end, the AU called for immediate provision of financial support from its Peace Fund.

Zuma, co-facilitator in the Burundi peace process, is due to arrive in the Burundi capital, Bujumbura, on Wednesday for discussions with key role players in the peace process, including President Pierre Buyoya and the 19 political parties that signed the Arusha peace accords in 2000.


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