The president of Burundi, Pierre Buyoya, was invited Tuesday to speak before the U.N. Security Council. Mr. Buyoya's address focused on the progress being made in his country as it seeks to put an end to decades of civil war in the region.
On the first of November last year, Burundi began a three-year process designed to move the country out of civil war and into a new era of democracy. Local elections are slated for next year to be followed by representative and presidential elections.
Mr. Buyoya told the Security Council that his country remains on schedule to deliver the reforms. "I am convinced that the institutions we set up in Burundi have the political means to begin the necessary reforms," he said. "Negotiations and the signing of a cease-fire are a crucial stage in order to speed up and conclude the various reforms we must undertake. The work to be done is enormous, but we can do it."
Yet Mr. Buyoya also acknowledged that major problems remain. The current peace accord was ratified in August 2000. Yet it was done without a cease-fire between warring factions, the Hutu rebels and the Tutsi-dominated army. Many Hutu rebels, currently fighting in Congo, have refused to participate in the peace process and sporadic violence continues across the country.
Mr. Buyoya appealed for the Security Council to intervene and put pressure on the rebels to join the peace process. "The Security Council has the resources to compel the Burundian rebels to give up the violence," he said. "If diplomatic means are not successful, all other means have to be used to prevent this rebellion from taking our peace process hostage, led today by a government which is the outcome of negotiations and which henceforth enjoys international legitimacy." The Burundi leader also spoke about efforts to forge a peace throughout the Great Lakes region of Central Africa. Mr. Buyoya pledged his support, and that of the Burundian people to those ongoing efforts.