Burundi peace talks stumble in Arusha

Cape Town- South Africa (PANA) -- Former South African President Nelson Mandela returned to South Africa Tuesday empty handed after talks in Arusha, Tanzania on the Burundi peace process failed to secure a breakthrough.
Mandela joined five African presidents - Pierre Buyoya of Burundi, Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Daniel arap Moi of Kenya and Paul Kagame of Rwanda - for brief talks to examine latest developments in the peace process in Burundi, where a transitional government is due to be installed next month.
In terms of the agreement, which was announced by Mandela in July, the presidency of Burundi would be shared during a three- year transition, with the Tutsi and Hutu ethnic groups wielding power in the first and second halves - 18 months each.
Current President, Pierre Buyoya (a Tutsi) will head the first 18 months with Hutu leader Domitien Ndayizeye serving as vice president.
The transitional government would release all political prisoners and invite an international peacekeeping force to assist with security arrangements.
South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal have expressed willingness to provide troops for a possible peacekeeping force in Burundi, while former colonial power Belgium is offering logistical support.
A special force to protect returnees, which would initially comprise 500 Tutsis and 500 Hutus, was supposed to be in place before 1 November, but time appears to be running out.
Both Tutsis and Hutus are yet to agree on the makeup of the unit, which is expected to comprise between 1,000 and 2,000 men, half Tutsi and half Hutu.
Monday's summit in Arusha ended without the Burundi parties securing agreement on the composition of a security force that is expected to protect exiled Burundians planning to return home.
Despite the setback, Mandela said "there is need for optimism," because of the progress that has been made so far.
He said another summit would be held in Pretoria on 11 October.
Burundi's civil war broke out in 1993 when Tutsi paratroopers assassinated the country's first democratically elected Hutu president, Melchior Ndadaye.
The conflict has claimed some 200 000 mainly civilian lives.

02 october 2001 20:57:00

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