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PRESS CONFERENCE ON BURUNDI BY DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

4 December 2002

The Security Council fully supported the steps taken towards peace in Burundi, according to Jacob Zuma, Executive Deputy President of South Africa, Facilitator of the Peace Process in Burundi, and Vice-President of the African National Council. Speaking at a press conference at Headquarters this evening, he explained that, despite that support, the Council had raised several concerns.

Specifically, it expressed concern that one group, namely PALEPEHUTU-FNL, had not yet joined the peace process. It also wished to know how other groups would be integrated into government institutions.

Illustrating the complexities of the situation in Burundi, he said that, because two armed groups had refused to sit together in talks with the Government, separate meetings had had to be held. Matters were further complicated when those two groups split into four. As a result, instead of one agreement, parallel negotiations were required to arrive at several agreements.

Asked about whether he had discussed sanctions against the FNL with the Secretary-General, he responded that he had. The topic, however, had only been discussed in an informative manner. No support for sanctions had been solicited from the Secretary-General. He did not elaborate on what kinds of sanctions would be implemented or even if they would be implemented at all. He said, however, that there was agreement in the region that the FNL could not “hold at ransom” a process that was supported by the majority of Burundians, Africans, and the international community.

Fielding a question about the African mission being a “bridging mechanism”, he said that Africa was interested in dealing with its own issues. On the other hand, it did not want to make it difficult for the United Nations to operate on the continent. He, therefore, partially saw the current peace process in Burundi as a means to establish a format through which the United Nations and Africa could cooperate in tackling the continent’s problems.

Addressing the odds of the FNL coming to the negotiating table, he said that the chances were good. The FNL was weak, isolated and only operating in one section of the country. It would, therefore, eventually heed calls to join the peace process. The FNL had put forth certain conditions to come to the table. He insisted, however, that those conditions be dropped.

Responding to a question about skepticism in the Security Council towards the peace process, he said that he had only sensed overwhelming support. Additionally, the questions he had received in that forum had been understandable and expected.

Asked about the possibility of groups in other countries, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, facing sanctions as a result of the Burundi process, he said that Africa had experimented with sanctions before. In that context, he referred to sanctions against UNITA and how they had helped to defeat that group.

Asked about South Africa’s role in the process, he said there were already South African troops in Burundi, but they were only there to provide security to certain returning leaders. That particular mission would remain in operation for a while. As for contributing to the process as a whole, South Africa’s contributions would be determined at a later date.

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