Brussels, 4th March 2003 - The European Commission has today decided to contribute to the establishment of an African Union (AU) Cease-fire Observer Mission in Burundi with a grant of €1.23m which will contribute to the establishment and operation of the Mission for a period of six months. The Mission will monitor the implementation of the Cease-fire Agreements signed at the end of 2002 between the transitional Government of Burundi and several major rebel groups. Given recent events in Burundi, it has become urgent to deploy the AU observers as quickly as possible and in that context the European Commission calls on all Burundians parties to respect the Cease-fire Agreements and to resume dialogue without delay. This contribution is an expression of support for the peace process in Burundi and of the priority which the European Commission attaches to the restoration of peace and security in Burundi and the Great Lakes Region in general.
Since Burundi's first democratically elected president was assassinated in October 1993, more than 200,000 Burundians have perished in widespread, often intense, political and ethnic violence. Based on the Arusha Peace Agreement of August 2000, a transitional Government was inaugurated in November 2001, but conflict continued until the signing of the Cease-fire Agreements with major armed groups on 7 October and 2/3 December of 2002. However the military and political situation following the Agreements has remained extremely fragile and it seems clear that international involvement is required to build the necessary trust and co-operation between the parties.
A fully-fledged African Union peacekeeping force (African Mission) is currently at the planning stage but in order not to lose momentum, there is a strong need for an immediate deployment of a Cease-fire Observer Mission. The Commission of the AU approached the European Union with a proposal for such a Mission, with 35 observers from at least four African countries (Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Gabon and Togo to be deployed at short notice.
The Humanitarian Aid Office ECHO has been present in Burundi for a number of years. In February 2003, a new €15m humanitarian aid programme was adopted which will benefit an estimated 2 million people.