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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Wednesday 17 March 2004

BURUNDI: New national army takes shape

NAIROBI, 17 Mar 2004 (IRIN) - Some 200 former fighters loyal to Pierre Nkurunziza arrived in a training camp in the southwestern province of Bururi on Tuesday, where they are due to undergo training as a unit of the new National Defence Forces of Burundi, the Burundian news agency, ABP, reported.

Burundi's deputy chief of general staff, Brig-Gen Adolphe Nshimirimana, led a convoy of three army lorries carrying the former Conseil national pour la defense de la democratie-Forces de defense de la democratie (CNDD-FDD) rebels from the capital, Bujumbura, to Bururi where they joined other government soldiers for six months of training.

ABP quoted Nshimirimana as saying that 1,200 soldiers, 800 from the government and 400 from the CNDD-FDD, would be trained to form a new security unit to be known as the Special Unit for the Protection of Institutions. The soldiers would replace those in the Unit for the Security of Institutions as the integrated national army takes shape.

The former CNDD-FDD fighters chosen for training were drawn from the northern, eastern, southern and western military regions, ABP reported.

On 16 November 2003, Nkurunziza's CNDD-FDD signed a power-sharing agreement with the transitional government of Burundi, under which the rebel movement would joined government institutions and be part of a new integrated national army. Already, the army general staff, with 40 percent of its officers drawn from the CNDD-FDD, has been established.

South African troops, who form part of an African Union (AU) Mission in Burundi, are due to take part in the training of the new unit in Bururi. The AU deployed peacekeeping troops to Burundi in 2002, comprising contingents from Ethiopia, Mozambique and South Africa.

Meanwhile, ABP reported that 42 child soldiers, among them two girls, who were part of local vigilante groups in Bururi, were handed over to their families on Tuesday. The handing over ceremony took place at the Rumonge Commune headquarters in the presence of civil and military officials, ABP reported.

[ENDS]



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