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Tuesday, November 06, 2001, updated at 10:45(GMT+8)

Burundian Transitional Govt to Speed up Peace Efforts: Minister

Terence Sinunguruza, newly appointed minister of External Relations and Cooperation of Burundi, said here Monday that the transitional government ushered in last Thursday will speed up its efforts to reach a cease-fire with the two main armed rebels.

The minister said that with a common political objective, the transitional government participated by all the 19 political parties in Burundi will do its best to promote a permanent cease-fire.

To this end, he said, the negotiations between the government and the armed rebels are expected to resume in two weeks in Libreville, Gabon.

He was optimistic about the future, saying that maybe in five coming months, they will be able to reach accession of ending hostilities. "I think that if they accept to suspend their hostilities, they can come back to the table and discuss even political issues."

Sinunguruza pointed out that the government is ready to make improvement of the peace accord signed by the 19 parties in August 2000 in Tanzania's northern town of Arusha, if requested by the rebels and to accept their integration into the army.

He noted that all the 19 parties have signed the Arusha accord and "there is no need to negotiate again from the very beginning."

According to Sinunguruza, among the two main rebels which are armed with mostly light weapons, CNDD-FDD has a total of some 10,000 members and FNL has some 3,000.

"Of the FDD, 3,000 are based in Lumbashi, the DRC (the Democratic Republic of the Congo), maybe 2,000 in Tanzania, and rest in Burundi; of FNL, most of them are in Burundi," he said.

The minister said that Burundi has started negotiations with the DRC on ending their support to the rebels.

"On November 1, the DRC sent their delegation," he said. "We'll sign absolutely an agreement on the matter but I can't tell you when."

Sinunguruza explained that his first priority is to make contacts with neighbors to persuade some of them to stop supporting the rebels, because the rebels have no reason to continue fighting.

The second priority is to ask the members of the international community to practice their promise of aiding Burundi because a peace agreement was signed, a multiethnic, broad-based transitional government is there.

"If the international community wants to go with the peace process, it should support this government, and the only way of support it is through cooperation," he said.

Sinunguruza, who will travel to New York for the United Nations Assembly Tuesday and have an appointment with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan there, said that he has a big plan to visit and express his thanks to all the countries which have been standing behind the Burundi peace process.

"During this peace process, we have recognized our friends," he said. "High on my visiting list is South Africa, which has given us the facilitator (former South African President Nelson Mandela), a gift sent by the God, Ethiopia, Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania among others."

The new foreign minister, who served as minister of Justice in the previous cabinet, revealed that arrangement is underway for his visit to China, which he praised as a real friend who assisted Burundi greatly without any preconditions.

He reaffirmed the stand by the transitional government that Burundi insists on the One-China policy and is ready to enhance its existing friendly relations with China, where he paid visits respectively in 1989 and 1991.

The foreign minister said that his colleagues of the 26-member cabinet, with nine of them returning from exile, have all started the work in their own offices at an atmosphere of brotherly cooperation.

On Thursday, for the first time since its independence in early 1960s, Burundi installed a transitional but multiethnic and broad-based government, a milestone to bring new hope to end the long-term brutal conflicts between the majority ethnic Hutus and minority Tutsis.

The incumbent Tutsi President Pierre Buyoya was sworn at a ceremony in the hall of the National Assembly, which was heavily guarded by fully armed soldiers.

Buyoya will head the government in the first 18 months of the three-year transitional period which is split into two equal phases.

Domitien Ndayizeye, a Hutu secretary-general of the main opposition pro-Hutu party FRODEBU, was sworn in to serve as vice president.

In the second phase, Ndayizeye will take power with a Tutsi vice president who is yet to be known.

The new authority is the climax of the Arusha peace agreement mediated by former South African President Nelson Mandela to steer Burundi away from the bitter conflict between Hutus and Tutsis.

Burundi has been wracked by civil war between ethnic majority Hutu rebels and the minority Tutsi-dominated government since 1993 when Melchior Ndadaye, a Hutu, the first democratically elected president since independence from Belgium in 1962, was assassinated by Tutsi troops.

Some 250,000 people, mostly civilians, have died in the fighting and further more have been internally displaced or fled abroad, among whom were many Hutu politicians.

The peace talks were initiated by former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere in June 1998 and have been beefed up by Mandela since he succeeded Nyerere as the facilitator in December 1999 following the latter's sudden death of leukemia.

The international community has paid great attention to the Burundi peace process and is eagerly awaiting the Burundians to terminate the primitive bad habits of waging tribal hatred and conflicts, and to arouse the people to build a better and honorable life based on a genuine multiethnic coalition.

In This Section

Terence Sinunguruza, newly appointed minister of External Relations and Cooperation of Burundi, said here Monday that the transitional government ushered in last Thursday will speed up its efforts to reach a cease-fire with the two main armed rebels.

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