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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Wednesday 25 February 2004

AFRICA: Japan looks towards peacekeeping role

DAR ES SALAAM, 25 Feb 2004 (IRIN) - The Japanese government is looking to extend its involvement in conflict resolution in Africa beyond just providing money to include participation in UN peacekeeping operations, an embassy official said on Wednesday.

"Japan would like to involve herself more in peace processes, especially the one in the Great Lakes region," Fuku Moto, the press and public affairs officer at the Japanese embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, told IRIN.

"We have sent the force into Iraq and are now thinking that maybe this could be extended to African countries too," he said.

Although a large contributor to many UN operations over the last decade, until its troops were sent into Iraq earlier in February Japan had not deployed troops to a combat zone since the Second World War nearly 60 years ago.

Japan's constitution bans soldiers from fighting overseas, however a 1992 law allows its troops to join UN and relief work abroad. But Moto said although there was consensus in Tokyo on the desire to become more actively involved in peacekeeping, there was no clear "method" as yet.

Tanzania's minister for foreign affairs and international cooperation, Jakaya Kikwete, appealed to Japan last week for help in refugee-related matters, especially for the swift repatriation of Burundian refugees from camps in western Tanzania.

Without giving details, Moto said funding for refugees and refugee affected areas would be considered as a possible beneficiary of increased Japanese involvement in the region.

Following the relatively successful implementation of a peace deal, signed late in 2003 between the transitional government of Burundi and the main rebel group in the country's decade-long civil war, many of the 350,000 Burundian refugees have begun to leave the camps. By the end of the month, up to 10,000 are expected to have returned home in the month of February alone.

Moto's comments follow the recent visit to Tanzania by Masaharu Kohno, a special representative of Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi at G-8 meetings and an official in-charge of sub-Saharan Africa.

Kohno's visit to Tanzania was a follow up of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, held in Japan in October 2003, which highlighted the importance Japan gave to the consolidation of peace in Africa, Moto said.

[ENDS]



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