Burundi + 2 more

Central Africa: Belgium vows to keep region on international agenda

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NAIROBI, 24 February (IRIN) - In a joint declaration signed in Brussels on Saturday with the leaders of Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Rwanda, Belgium pledged to bring pressure to bear on the international community against forgetting about the Great Lakes region of Africa, particularly in light of the looming threat of war against Iraq, the official Belga news agency reported.
The declaration, entitled "L'engagement de Bruxelles", an initiative of Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel, was signed by Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, Burundi President Pierre Buyoya, Burundi Foreign Minister Terence Sinunguruza, DRC President Joseph Kabila, DRC Foreign Minister Leonard She Okitundu, and Rwandan Foreign Minister Charles Murigande, upon the conclusion of "La Semaine Africaine", a week-long public awareness campaign organised by the Belgian foreign ministry to highlight the need for peace and to end the suffering of the people of the Great Lakes region.

"At a time when the international community risks focusing its attention exclusively on Iraq, and thereby neglecting its efforts and responsibilities with regard to the peace process currently under way in the Great Lakes region, Belgium reiterates the urgent and imperative need for the international community to intensify its efforts [towards the region] both diplomatically and financially," Belga quoted the declaration as stating.

Through this engagement, Belgium promised "to remain determinedly vigilant in keeping this major international issue on the international agenda, and on the European Union agenda in particular," the statement added.

Belgium, together with France and Germany, has been a vociferous critic of the threat of a US-led war against Iraq.

Belga also noted that the text of "L'engagement de Bruxelles" included a reiteration of the three African countries' "sincere and total" commitment to reach a "successful conclusion of the peace process and stabilisation under way in the DRC, Burundi, and Rwanda".

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