Mandela leaves for Arusha Burundi talks

Cape Town- South Africa (PANA) -- Former South African President Nelson Mandela has left for Arusha, northern Tanzania, to attend a regional summit devoted to the peace process in Burundi.
The meeting will bring together several African leaders who will receive a progress report on preparations for the all- inclusive transitional government to be installed in Burundi on 1 November.
Presidents Pierre Buyoya of Burundi, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania, Daniel arap Moi of Kenya, Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Joseph Kabila of the DRC are among the leaders attending the summit.
Under an agreement by Mandela in July, the presidency of Burundi will be split during a three-year transition period that would be divided into two equal phases of 18 months each.
The incumbent Burundian President Pierre Buyoya will head the first 18 months of a transitional government while Hutu leader Domitien Ndayizeye would serve as deputy president.
The transitional government is supposed to release all political prisoners and invite an international peacekeeping force to assist with security arrangements during the transition.
Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa have expressed willingness to provide troops for a possible peacekeeping force in Burundi, as envisaged under the peace accord.
Burundi's former colonial power, Belgium, has said it would provide logistical support.
A special force to protect the returning personalities, 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.
The leaders of the central African country's Tutsi minority and Hutu majority have 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.
Implementation of a peace accord signed last August by the government and the political opposition stumbled after the cease- fire was violated.
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 an estimated 200,000 people mainly civilian lives.
Mandela was appointed as mediator in the peace process, after being appointed to the position by six African heads of states who expressed confidence that the Nobel Peace Prize laureate would help secure a breakthrough in the conflict.
Mandela replaced Julius Nyerere, the former Tanzanian president who died in 1999 after trying unsuccessfully for more than a year to broker peace in the war-ravaged nation.

01 october 2001 13:23:00

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