United Nations Security Council Address on Arusha Peace Process, by Nelson Mandela, 29 September 2000, New York USA

Mr President, Honourable Members of the Security Council

We are honoured by the opportunity of returning to the Security Council to report to your honourable selves and our esteemed world body on progress and the current state of affairs in the Burundi Peace Process.

Our role as facilitator of the process to which the leaders of that region saw fit to appoint us, was in a sense inaugurated with a visit to the Security Council in January this year. On 16 January we paid our first acquaintance-making visit to Arusha, the seat of the peace negotiations, from where we proceeded directly here to brief the Security Council and to seek its support for the continuation of the process started by the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere.

The support we received from the Security Council by way of resolution and the general expressions of encouragement from members inspired us.

It allowed us to take on the daunting challenge of following in the footsteps of the great Mwalimu Nyerere and continue the sterling work he had done up to that point. We could do so in the confident knowledge that our world body, and through it the international community, took a serious and direct interest in the quest for peace in Burundi.

That sense of the international community making the plight of a small and poor country its concern inspired us to involve a range of heads of states and governments in the Burundi Peace Process. We said here at our first visit to the Security Council that the continuation of preventable suffering of people anywhere in the world demeaned all of us. The manner in which the international community responded to calls for involvement in the Burundi Peace Process was a powerful demonstration that the shared responsibility for the fate of humankind was increasingly being accepted by the modern day leadership.

It will remain for us one of the most promising features of the Burundi Peace Process that so many heads of states or governments, or their delegated representatives, gave of their time and energy to attend and participate in the plenary sessions at Arusha.

The significance of this, we believe, will resonate even beyond the Burundi issue. It must have sent a powerful message that the leaders in the immediate region, on the continent and on the broader international front care about peace in the world no matter where it may be under onslaught. This demonstration of commitment to Burundi must be a clear indication that the neglect of Africa, particularly, is being turned around.

The international interest and participation were crucial for moving the peace process forward. It convinced the Burundian leadership that peace in Burundi was not merely a domestic matter over which they had the liberty to take as much time as suited them. The physical presence of so many other leaders persuaded them of the urgency to find peace. It forcefully demonstrated to them that the quest for peace in Burundi was part of the global search for a world in which conflict and differences are resolved through negotiation and compromise rather than a resort to violence.

We must commence our report on the progress in the Burundi Peace Process with tribute to the political leadership of Burundi. We reported to this Council in January our faith that there were leaders of quality and commitment in Burundi, dedicated to finding a lasting peace that would end the carnage and suffering visited for too long upon the people of that beautiful country.

We are proud to report today that our faith was not misplaced and that the leadership rose magnificently to the challenges. They committed themselves to a particular methodology and procedure that we proposed for advancing the process and at the end of the day were able to reach an agreement of significant proportions for the future of Burundi.

We proposed in confidential discussions with each of the parties represented in the Arusha talks, and subsequently at a plenary session in the presence of the attending regional, continental and international leaders, that the Facilitation Team be mandated to draw up a comprehensive draft compromise proposal based on the inputs received over the lengthy period of negotiations. On receipt of comments on the draft compromise, a final plan would be drawn up and the parties would agree to accept that as the basis for implementing peace plans in Burundi.

The parties agreed to these procedural proposals and on 28 August a political agreement amongst the majority of participating parties was signed in Arusha, once more in the witnessing presence of an impressive array of leaders.

A number of parties who did not sign on that date subsequently did so, and the Security Council needs to congratulate and commend the political leadership of Burundi for this courageous step towards peace in their country. I wish to publicly record my personal pride, and that of the Facilitation Team, in the quality of leadership displayed.

There obviously remains a range of matters of detail and implementation that the parties would wish to pursue and that we ourselves require from them to resolve amongst them. This is now, however, being done within the framework of a firm political agreement to which the parties are committed.

The significance of the agreement is that the political parties now represent a united forum. - joined by the compromise agreement reached - that can engage with the remaining issues and with those combatant forces that are not yet part of the process.

Numerous areas of agreement can be cited as examples of how the Burundi leadership practised the art of compromise. We would only wish to refer to one, namely the very crucial and sensitive issue of the integration of a future Burundi national defence force.

Both Hutu and Tutsi leadership had to depart significantly from their starting positions to arrive at the final agreement that the defence force would consist of 50% persons from the Hutu community and 50% from the Tutsi, with accommodation being made for the Twa community as well.

It was further agreed that a body of respected persons, independent from the Defence Force, would oversee this process. This, we believe, reflects on the underlying and fundamental features of the agreement, namely that the democratic rights of the majority are respected while the fears and concerns of the minorities are simultaneously addressed.

The political agreement reached is obviously not yet the comprehensive and final peace agreement as some of the main combatant rebel forces are not party to the signed agreement. The process now continues with a major focus on engaging those forces in direct talks with the political leadership. When we last reported to this Council we undertook to make the process as inclusive as possible and particularly to open talks with the combatant forces not included at that time. That has been done and we have had numerous fruitful discussions with the leadership of the rebel forces, both in South Africa and in Arusha. From their sides too we have received commitments to finding lasting peace.

We fully accept the sincerity of these pronouncements on the part of the leadership of the combatants. At the same time we must repeat in this Council what we have on a number occasions stated to them in our private discussions as well as in public calls.

There cannot be any justification for continuing violent attacks on the civilian population when a political agreement had been reached and the way had been opened for them to bring their concerns to the negotiating table. We once more call upon them to demonstrate the quality of their leadership by announcing a cease-fire and to halt the slaughter of innocent women, men and children. Burundi stands at the threshold of a completely new chapter in its history. That history will judge very harshly those that deliberately choose to obstruct the road to peace and progress. I am confident that the leadership of the combatant forces will not be amongst those, and ask this Council to encourage and urge them to help bring about a speedy conclusion to this final part of the Burundi Peace Process.

Another important new phase awaiting us is that of directing our activities towards Burundi society itself.

We have during the course of the present phase of negotiations already visited Burundi where we met with army leadership, the legislature and judiciary and various sectors of civil society. We had the opportunity of visiting other areas of the country beside the capital, also inspecting some of the regroupment camps then still in existence. We now intend to intensify our attention on the internal situation. The agreement reached in Arusha now needs to be explained to the people of Burundi, and their understanding and consent assured.

A situation needs to be speedily arrived at where the leaders of the signatory parties can all return to Burundi to play their parts in this process. We realise that the security situation may not make the possible immediately. In this regard we shall call upon the United Nations for assistance in providing appropriate security for the returning leadership.

Mr President, we believe that the political leaders of Burundi had made remarkable progress towards peace in these last nine months since we have had the privilege of working with them. We have confidence of being close to the conclusion of this process.

The people of Burundi deserve to enjoy the developmental fruits of what will be a remarkable national achievement. For that reason we have solemnly undertaken towards the leaders and people of Burundi that we shall mobilise the international community to assist massively in the reconstruction and development of the Burundi economy and society.

We hope with the support of the international community to make of Burundi a showcase of a country where the commitment to peace carries a dividend. An underlying cause of the conflict in Burundi is to be found in the fierce competition for limited resources where access to such is mainly through the state. We hope that the development of a greater private sector component will go a long way to addressing that underlying problem.

We have already also started mobilising countries from the developed world to provide opportunities for studies to young people from Burundi. The Burundi Peace Process is not an end in itself, we see it as one part of bringing a better life to the people of that country on a sustainable basis.

We must conclude, Mr President, with expressions of sincere gratitude to all of those who had played such crucial roles in the peace process. The Secretary-general of the United Nations had been a constant source of support and encouragement as has been his counterpart in the Organisation of African Unity. The support of so many leaders from the African continent and from further afield has already been mentioned. Without the generosity of the international donor community none of this would have been possible.

The Facilitation Team did all the hard work and public acknowledgement of them is due. And as I have already indicated, ultimately it was up to the leaders of Burundi themselves to make peace.

We look forward to returning here in the not too distant future to report to this esteemed Council the conclusion of the negotiating process and real progress with the implementation of that agreement.

We trust too that the international world will with similar enthusiasm participate in the proposed project for the reconstruction and development of Burundi society and economy. That will be the ultimate victory for peace.

I thank you.