afrol News, 30 October - The UN Security Council yesterday unanimously endorsed the efforts of South Africa and other countries to create a temporary international security force in Burundi. South African troops have already arrived to assist in the country's delicate peace process.
After a turbulent year, the last months have speeded up the national peace process. Burundian President Pierre Buyoya and leading members of Burundi's pro-Hutu opposition FRODEBU party have had meetings with Burundi peace mediator Nelson Mandela, agreeing on the establishment of national transition institutions before a return to democracy.
A transitional government is being set up on 1 November and on Saturday, the National Assembly approved a transitional constitution. Exiles are returning home and Burundi is to establish a new "protection force", which is to be ethnically balanced and trained by foreign advisers.
On Sunday, the first 230 South African troops, which are to form a part of the future international security force, arrived in Burundi. The South African troops are to protect returning Burundi exiles, which are to take part in the transitional government and other transitional institutions. They are to serve as an interim protection force until an all-Burundian unit has been trained to take over the responsibility.
South Africa and Tanzania had asked for UN assistance to implement the Arusha Peace Agreement. Yesterday, the UN Security Council produced a positive answer, and "and strongly supported the establishment of an interim multinational security presence in Burundi to protect returning political leaders and train an all-Burundian protection force," according to a UN statement.
The Security Council was however not endorsing the international security force or giving it United Nations financial support. It limited itself to urge the international community "with the installation of the Transitional Government, to provide additional assistance," especially financial support.
Meanwhile, Burundi is getting ready to install the transitional government on Wednesday, 1 November. The government, which is to function for a three-year period, is to head a process towards national reconciliation and democracy.
Analysts see the transition period as one difficult experiment of power sharing between former deadly enemies. "The future of Burundi depends on whether this latest attempt at power sharing will succeed or fail," concluded South African Burundi expert Jan Van Eck last week.
The legitimacy of the transition government also depends on how many prominent exiled leaders will return to the country. It is still unclear whether all warring parties will send their top representatives to Bujumbura to participate in the government. Its success also depends on the goodwill of Burundi's neighbours, which to some degree are all involved in the conflicts of the country.
Two armed groups, namely the Forces pour la Défense de la Démocratie (FDD) and Forces Nationales de Libération (FNL), however still have not laid down their arms. Calls for the FDD and FNL to join the peace process remain unanswered.
The humanitarian suffering, which has plagued Burundi since late 1993, still remains unabated. Hundreds of thousands have died as a direct result of the conflict between the government and opposition forces. The number of Burundian refugees has already reached 500,000. More than 800,000 people, some 12 percent of the country's population, are internally displaced, many of them as a result of a deliberate government policy relocating civilians in circumstances where it cannot be justified under international civilian law, according to UN sources.