African military experts meet in Bujumbura

Bujumbura- Burundi (PANA) -- African experts in the technical military committee backing Burundi's peace process are currently meeting in Bujumbura to determine modalities under which foreign peacekeepers would operate in the country.
Informed sources said Monday that the 14 experts from Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa are consulting Burundian army officers to fix the size of the proposed force on the basis of information from the field.
The main role of the peacekeeping force will to enforce the cease-fire, about which contacts with the belligerents are being initiated under the separate mediation of South Africa as well as Gabon.
"You'll have the opportunity to go in the field to talk with Burundian soldiers so as to get an in-depth of Burundi's realities and to see what is appropriate and the possible mechanisms for such a force," Burundi's Defence minister, Gen.
Cyrille Ndayirikiye, told the experts meeting's opening session.
According to the minister, the establishment of a peacekeeping force was among the peace agreement's clauses whose implementation had made some "significant" progress besides the agreement on the transitional leadership and launching of new State institutions in Burundi on 1 November.
The minister refuted allegations, by certain fringes within Burundi opposed to foreign military intervention, that "large contingents" would be deployed inside the country.
"The planned military mission is not yet defined," insisted Gen.
Ndayirukye, adding that discussions were still in an exploratory phase.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the technical military committee, who is the deputy eastern operations commander of the South African Defence Forces, Gen.
Lusse Yan, pledged that the envisaged peacekeeping force in Burundi "will be neutral" and its objective would be to stabilise the country.
He called for the establishment of the force as quickly as possible given the urgent need to restore peace in Burundi.
Lusse Yan explained that during their meeting in Bujumbura, the experts would examine the practical details, human and financial resources necessary for the operation.
The ongoing meeting in Bujumbura is the third of its kind after those held in Pretoria in last March and July on the issue of implementing peacekeeping force in Burundi.
Attending the meeting are eight South African experts and while Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal have sent two each.
Burundian President Pierre Buyoya has on several occasions said the size of peacekeeping force should be between 2,000 and 3,000 officers and men drawn from Ghana, South Africa, Senegal and Nigeria.

24 september 2001 20:49:00

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