Dáil Éireann - Volume 588 - 24 June, 2004

Written Answers. - Foreign Conflicts.

  29. Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on the political situation in Burundi. [18794/04]

  Mr. Cowen: Despite persistent difficulties, there has been significant political progress in Burundi since the signing of the Arusha Peace Accords in August 2000. It is a long time since the general prospects for peace have been so strong.

Last November agreements concluded between the Transitional National Government and the Conseil National pour la defense de la democratie-Forces pour la defense de la democratie or CNDD-FDD. Now there is only one, mainly Hutu, armed group, the Forces Nationales de Liberation outside of the peace process. Efforts are continuing to urge the FNL to resume peace negotiations with the government. These began in January but have since been suspended.

[166] Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Zambia, Rwanda and Burundi make up the Great Lakes Regional Peace Initiative on Burundi. On 5 June their leaders met in Dar-es-Salaam. A three month deadline was set for the FNL to engage in talks with the Burundian Government with a view to concluding a ceasefire agreement.

The EU has consistently called for a comprehensive ceasefire. It urged the FNL to abandon its military campaign and commit to the peace process. This was done most recently in a declaration issued by the Presidency on 28 May.

On 3 May the CNDD-FDD announced its withdrawal from the Transitional National Government. It has also made clear that it has no intention of withdrawing from the peace process or of returning to violence. Efforts are continuing to bring about an end to the CNDD-FDD’s withdrawal through satisfying its demand for the full level of representation within the transition institutions accorded to it in the November 2003 peace agreement.

Ireland, as EU Presidency, remained closely engaged with the Burundian peace process. We had a series of contacts with the Burundian Government since the murder of Archbishop Michael Courtney last December.

On 8 April I met President Ndayizeye and Foreign Minister Sinunguruza during my visit to Burundi. I reiterated the EU’s full support for the current peace efforts and willingness to extend whatever assistance we can to further the peace process in Burundi. I also urged progress in implementing all of the provisions of the Arusha peace accords, including tackling impunity and safeguarding human rights. I raised ratification of the Statute of the International Criminal Court by Burundi as a step that would offer assurance of justice to all those who have suffered human rights abuses during the latter years of the conflict in Burundi. President Ndayizeye indicated that his Government is considering steps to ratify the statute.

The major priority for the Burundian Government and people in the coming months will be to intensify the transition process. It involves making a substantive start to the process of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration. Security sector reform and drafting of a new constitution and electoral law must also be undertaken. These steps must be accomplished if the timetable set in the Arusha Agreement of August 2000 to hold national elections by no later than 1 November 2004 is to be respected.

The EU is committed to supporting the electoral process in Burundi, including through the provision of financial assistance. It is also likely, in response to a recommendation of the Irish Presidency, that an EU electoral observation mission will travel to monitor elections in Burundi.

The efforts to ensure satisfactory completion of the transition process in Burundi have been greatly enhanced by the decision of the United Nations Security Council to deploy a UN peacekeeping mission, ONUB. It will have a mandate [167] to oversee the remaining period of the transition up until the holding of scheduled national elections at the end of October. On 28 May the EU Presidency issued a declaration that welcomed the deployment of ONUB. It offered support for the implementation of its mandate that includes, not least, a significant human rights component.

  30. Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on the situation in Senegal. [18769/04]

  Mr. Cowen: Last April Prime Minister Idrissa Seck resigned. He was replaced by Interior Minister Macky Sall, a leading member of the ruling Senegalese Democratic Party. The next legislative elections are scheduled to take place in 2006 and a presidential election is due to be held in 2007.

For many years there has been separatist movement among the Dialo community in the southern Casamance region of Senegal. In 1982 the Mouvement des forces démocratiques de Casamance took up arms to fight for Casamance’s independence. Despite various peace initiatives, violence has continued sporadically since.

In May 2003 President Wade met a central political leader of the rebel MFDC and both sides made specific commitments to move the peace process forward. A ceasefire agreement was agreed towards the end of December 2003 with the armed faction of Fogny in the northwest area of the Casamance. The agreement, including demining, is in the process of being implemented.