UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
BURUNDI: Zuma says he is willing to talk to Rwasa's FNL
NAIROBI, 16 July 2003 (IRIN) - South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma said on Wednesday that he was willing "to engage further" the Parti pour la liberation du peuple hutu-Forces nationales de liberation (Palipehutu-FNL) of Agathon Rwasa, a Burundi splinter rebel group that is not a signatory of the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement of 2000.
The announcement followed a meeting held in Kigali, Rwanda, with President Paul Kagame as part of Zuma's current tour of the Great Lakes region.
Zuma called on Rwasa's FNL "to immediately enter into negotiations" with the transitional government of Burundi and "to raise whatever concerns it has constructively through negotiation and not through violence".
At least 170 people have died and thousands have been displaced in fighting between Rwasa's FNL rebels and the army that began on 7 July.
The UN reported on Tuesday that relative calm had prevailed in the city, with internally displaced people returning to their homes.
A statement from Zuma's office said that he and Kagame discussed the situation in Burundi and agreed that decisive action was needed to quell the violence, and to allow space for the implementation of ceasefire accords and the Arusha accord, leading to the holding of democratic elections within 16 months.
For his part, Kagame told a news conference that the possibility of sending peacekeeping troops to Burundi from regional countries was considered.
"We spoke in general terms about the need to send troops to Burundi to restore peace for the Burundi people," he said. "We discussed this in general terms. The other issues of who will go there and how many troops will go there will be discussed later."
Kagame expressed his full support for the peace process and told Zuma that his country would assist in regional efforts to restore stability in Burundi.
Zuma will leave Kigali for the Burundi capital, Bujumbura, on Thursday for consultations before returning to Pretoria the same day.
Themes: (IRIN) Conflict
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