South African troops may assist with Burundi peace process

Cape Town- South Africa (PANA) -- Former President Nelson Mandela has said he will urge the South African government to send troops to Burundi within the next few days to protect exiled Burundian leaders returning home.
Talks dealing with the installation of a transitional government in Burundi next month were held in Pretoria on Thursday, with presidents Omar Bongo of Gabon, Joseph Kabila of DR Congo, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Benjamin Mkhappa of Tanzania and Pierre Buyoya of Burundi attending.
Libya was represented by Seif Alaslam Kadhafi, son of Col.
Muammar Kadhafi, while Ghana, Malawi and Rwanda all sent ministers.
Mandela, who said South African troops would be required to ensure that a transitional government in Burundi is installed on 1 November as planned, chaired the meeting.
"I am going to talk to President Thabo Mbeki and say they should send some troops from South Africa as an interim measure so that these leaders outside Burundi can return by 15 October," Mandela said.
He said the transitional government would comprise leaders of all 19 political parties that were signatories to a recent agreement in Arusha, Tanzania.
According to the agreement, which Mandela announced in July, the presidency of Burundi will be split during a three-year transition of two phases lasting 18 months each.
Burundi president Pierre Buyoya will head the first 18 months while Hutu leader Domitien Ndayizeye serves as deputy president.
The transitional government would release all political prisoners and invite an international peacekeeping force to assist with security arrangements during the transition.
Mandela said donor countries had pledged to give 400 million US dollars to support the peace process as soon as a transitional government was installed and a cease-fire declared.
Despite this progress, the two main rebel groups - Forces for Defence of Democracy and the National Liberation Front - are still refusing to sign a cease-fire agreement or to be part of the transitional government.
South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma and Gabon's President Omar Bongo would continue to negotiate with the two parties.
Thursday's summit followed "detailed talks" in Pretoria the previous day between the Defence ministers of South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria over the deployment of a military force from their countries in support of the peace process in Burundi.
South Africa, Nigeria, Senegal and Ghana have offered to provide troops for a security force during the transitional period.
Burundi's civil war, which has claimed some 200 000 mainly civilian lives, broke out in 1993 when Tutsi paratroopers assassinated the country's first democratically elected Hutu president, Melchior Ndadaye.
Mandela assumed mediation in the peace process after being appointed to the position by six African Heads of State who expressed confidence that the Nobel Peace Prize laureate would help secure a breakthrough.
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.

12 october 2001 08:15:00




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