Secretary-General Gives Message on Burundi as Arusha Talks Begin

Today in Arusha, Tanzania, a plenary session of negotiations on Burundi began under the organization of the Facilitator of the Arusha Process, former South African President Nelson Mandela. Although the Secretary-General is on his official visit to Australia, his Special Representative for the Great Lakes region, Berhanu Dinka, delivered a message on his behalf to the heads of State gathered in Arusha. The Secretary-General said that the meeting "has attracted the attention of all those in the world who have the interests of Africa at heart".
He added that, for Burundi to achieve lasting peace, an agreement among its parties would have to be accompanied by the restoration of stability to the region as a whole -- particularly the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He also emphasized that, although the Burundian Government has taken positive steps to dismantle its regroupment camps, the need to speed up the process and allow the people in the camps to return home is "a matter of urgency". We have copies of his statement upstairs.

Carol Bellamy, the Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), also drew attention to the urgent need to close the regroupment camps today, as she wound up a two-day visit to Burundi. She visited the Ruziba camp, south of Bujumbura, where about 12,000 people are located. She also met with President Pierre Buyoya and other senior officials, before travelling this afternoon to Arusha to attend the opening of the peace talks.

Tomorrow, the talks will include a video-conference presentation by President Bill Clinton of the United States. The plenary session of the talks is expected to last until Wednesday.