Secretary-General's message to Burundi negotiators meeting in Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania

Press Release SG/SM/7315 - AFR/212 - 20000225
Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the plenary session of the Negotiations for a Peaceful Settlement in Burundi, delivered on his behalf by Berhanu Dinka, Special Representative for the Great Lakes Region, in Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania, on 21 February:

I should like at the outset to express my gratitude to the Facilitator of the Arusha process, Nelson Mandela, former President of the Republic of South Africa, for inviting me to this important gathering. I much regret that I could not attend in person, because of a long-standing commitment to the Government and people of Australia.

This second plenary session of the Arusha talks in the space of two months, and the presence of so many heads of State and government in this hall, bear witness to the determination of the leaders of the region, as well as that of the Facilitator, to bring the process to a successful conclusion. Your meeting has attracted the attention of all those in the world who have the interests of Africa at heart.

The Security Council of the United Nations, which organized a special meeting on Burundi in New York on the nineteenth of last month, has reaffirmed its determination to support the Arusha peace process, while underlining its concern about the worsening situation in Burundi. In its resolution S/1286 of 19 January, the Council also expressed its whole-hearted support for the new Facilitator. May I personally thank him once again for agreeing to put his exceptional wisdom and experience at the service of peace, in order to resolve one of the most tragic conflicts in our continent? I am hopeful that his well-known qualities of leadership, sense of compromise and tolerance, which have contributed to laying the foundations of national reconciliation in South Africa, will inspire and motivate the leaders of Burundi here assembled to move in the same direction.

Important steps have already been taken in the search for peace in Burundi thanks to the ceaseless efforts which the late Facilitator, Mwalimu Nyerere, had deployed up to his last days. To him, too, we owe a deep debt of gratitude for putting at the service of Africa his statesmanship, perseverance and wisdom.

Mwalimu's memory should inspire the leaders of Burundi participating in this historic gathering today to work as tirelessly as he did to achieve the peace and harmony for which their people have been yearning for so long.

The primary responsibility for the resolution of the conflict which has been tearing their country apart belongs to the people of Burundi themselves. The international community will be by their side as long as they show a genuine willingness and commitment to solve the crisis peacefully. It is to underline that commitment of the international community that I recently decided to appoint Berhanu Dinka as my Special Representative for the Great Lakes Region. I have instructed him to support the new dynamism which the current Facilitator has injected into the Arusha Peace Process, while following developments in the interlocking problems of the region as a whole.

As we all know, the crisis in Burundi is working itself out in a regional context characterized by instability and volatility. To achieve lasting peace, an agreement among the parties in Burundi will have to be accompanied by the restoration of stability in the region as a whole, and especially in the Democratic Republic of Congo. As you know, the United Nations is actively seeking to help bring about that outcome, in close cooperation with the Organization of African Unity.

In conclusion, I would like to take note of the fact that the Government of Burundi has begun dismantling the regroupment camps, as it promised to do during the Security Council meeting on Burundi last month. While considering the steps thus far taken as positive, I would like to encourage the authorities in Burundi to speed up the process, and to enable the population to return to their homes as a matter of urgency. I wish you every success in your deliberations.