- 2001-11-01 (Creation)
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Chairman of the Regional Heads of States
Heads of States and Governments
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Representatives of the International Community
Ladies and Gentlemen
With the oaths that we witnessed here today Africa took an important and groundbreaking step towards re-establishing peace and stability on our continent.
The Great Lakes region had been one of the areas most severely plagued by war, violent conflict, strife and instability.
The country of Burundi had been torn apart by years of wars and inter-communal killing. More than a quarter million of people had been slaughtered, most of them innocent civilians. It would seem to the outside world as if there was no capacity amongst the leaders of Burundi to ever come to a settlement that would put an end to the carnage and slaughter. Like most of the continent, the pessimists predicted, Burundi was doomed to remain in endless cycles of violence and killing.
Today we celebrate a triumph. Much work still remains to be done before we can claim that peace had finally and irrevocably been established in Burundi. But no one can deny that the establishment of a trans-communal transitional government in this deeply divided country represents a major breakthrough and advance on the road to lasting peace.
On the 19th January 2000 we reported to the United Nations Security Council that we had paid a first visit to Arusha on Sunday 16th January to acquaint ourselves with the facilitation team, the international agencies and representatives involved in the process and, most importantly, the heads of delegations from the Burundian political parties and role-players. We then said to the Security Council:
"We came away from that meeting impressed by the potential and quality of leadership present in Burundi. We met and interacted with people of outstanding intelligence and education.
There are political processes and sets of dynamics underway which, if harnessed and directed in constructive routes, could form the basis for a lasting political settlement in that hitherto troubled country."
Today's installation of the transitional government as a consequence of the Arusha Agreement reached amongst the participating parties on 28 August last year, vindicates the impression we formed of the Burundi leadership on that first occasion.
We congratulate the Burundian leaders for responding to the challenge of putting the interests of their long-suffering people ahead of considerations of personal power and sectional sentiments. With your willingness to compromise and preparedness to face the future rather than getting caught in the divisions of your past, you opened an honourable place for yourself and your country in the history of our continent.
Our congratulations extend to the leaders of the nineteen political parties involved in the Arusha process and all the members of their delegations.
The role of the Burundi National Defence Force in supporting the process cannot be over-emphasised. We met with them in Burundi and with their officers in South Africa on a number of occasions. We often found them to be ahead of the political parties in their eagerness for finding a lasting peaceful solution.
We also met at a number of occasions with representatives from a broad range of civil society organisations. The desire for peace and the opportunity to live together in conditions of stability was most pronounced amongst them. Here we think particularly of religious leaders and organisations of women and youth.
The peace process was an initiative of the Regional Heads of States, and a special word of appreciation is due to them not only for initiating the process but also for their continued support throughout. They gave unstintingly of their time and energy to attend the numerous summits and in between summits worked hard at ensuring progress.
At that first report to the Security Council we said that we wished to invite to the meetings in Arusha other heads of states from different parts of the world because we believed that apart from the financial and humanitarian assistance, the international community also had a part to play politically. The effectiveness of the messages we delivered to the various protagonists in Burundi, could only be reinforced by the participation of other heads of states and countries. The problems of Burundi, we believed, are the concern of all of us, as are the problems in any other part of the world.
Once more we must register our profound appreciation to the various heads of states who had attended those summits or sent senior representatives. The manner in which African states from outside of the region rallied to support the process gave substance to our continental intention to take the lead in addressing our own problems. The leaders of Nigeria, Ethiopia, Libya, Ghana and Gabon are examples of those that come to mind in this regard.
The exceptional efforts to which President Clinton went in lending political support to the process will remain a lasting memory of this episode in African peace-making. The financial and political support of others like British Prime Minister Blair, Belgian Prime Minister Verhofstadt, President Chirac of France, and the President of the European Commission was invaluable.
President Chirac took the lead in organising the donors' conference in Paris in December last year. At that conference donor countries and multi-lateral organisations pledged almost half a billion US dollars towards the reconstruction of the Burundi economy and society, while there were also undertakings to have a cohort of young Burundians trained to take the lead in this process of reconstruction and development. The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Union were key partners in this venture.
With the transitional government now installed we hope that those funds will start to be released. The political process in Burundi, steered by a government that has legitimacy gained from negotiations, will be substantially strengthened if accompanied by socio-economic development making a difference to the lives of ordinary citizens.
The rebel groups have not yet signed a cease-fire. We do not believe that we should allow the process to be held to ransom by the unwillingness of those groups to enter into it. We have worked very hard at engaging the rebel groups and we continue to make progress through the efforts of President Bongo of Gabon and South African Deputy President Zuma. We are confident that under the leadership of these two very able leaders a breakthrough will be achieved soon. We were encouraged at the last summit by the statements of the leaders of these groups that they would consider entering into negotiations with the new transitional government.
We must also thank and pay tribute to the government of South Africa for consenting to sending a contingent of their security forces to act as a special protection unit to returning political leaders. We look forward to the time when the South African contingent shall be joined by those form Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal who had indicated a willingness to participate in an eventual multi-national peace-keeping force.
In the mean time we welcome and congratulate the South African contingent. We appreciate the co-operation they received from the Burundi Government and Defence Force in their preparations and deployment. We look forward to the new Transitional Government working with them henceforth. And we take note with encouragement of the statements by the leaders of the armed groups at the last summit that they would respect the specific protection function of the South Africans.
The United Nations Security Council expressed its support for the deployment of the South Africans and that is greatly appreciated. We have all along seen our facilitation role as in service of the United Nations. Hence our regular reporting to the Security Council and to the Secretary-General without whose constant support progress would have been even more difficult.
We sincerely trust that the Security Council can find it in itself to expeditiously move towards a position where the deployment of peace-keeping forces can be fully authorised as a United Nations operation.
Today also marks a transition in the nature of the peace process. This is the point at which the facilitation role formally expires and the baton of responsibility passes on to the Implementation and Monitoring Committee under the Chairmanship of the United Nations representative, Ambassador Dinka.
We can and shall of course not turn our backs on a situation we all have worked so hard to bring to this point. In as far as it is appropriate and required, we shall continue to act as what may be called a moral guarantor of the agreement and the commitment of the parties. Where our intervention is regarded as being helpful to the process of engagement with the armed groups and President Bongo and Deputy President Zuma so indicate, we shall be available to assist.
But formally and substantively responsibility now passes on to the Implementation and Monitoring Committee and to the international community under the auspices of the United Nations.
It has been a singular honour to be involved in this African search for peace and I wish to record my thanks to the regional leaders for choosing me for a task that was arduous and often very frustrating and taxing, but at the end was a great honour to be entrusted with.
We have already indicated that without the support and co-operation of so many people nothing could have been achieved. We cannot conclude without particularly thanking the country, leadership and people of Tanzania for hosting the talks and lending support in so many other ways.
We think today in a special way of the role of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere who did all the groundwork for this process. We pay tribute to President Benjamin Mkapa who personified the commitment of his country and people towards finding a peaceful solution. The social and economic contribution of hosting thousands of refugees displaced from Burundi can never be accurately calculated.
And then also Judge Mark Bomani and the entire Facilitation Team that did the real hard work behind the scenes. Africa will remember you for your contribution to peace.
Now it is up to the leadership and the people of Burundi to build a future of peace and security for themselves and future generations. Ultimately it is only you who can make it succeed. The region, the continent and the international community have pledged their support, but your future is in your own hands. I have confidence that you can succeed.
If you can build peace in your beautiful country, it will have an effect on the entire region and that will reverberate throughout the continent. We trust that you will be inspired the knowledge that you now have a real chance to contribute concretely to the regeneration of Africa.
Do not fail us, do not fail the world. But above all, do not fail yourself and your people. Your country has bled enough. It and its people now deserve peace.
I wish you well, and I thank you all.