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Saturday, November 13, 1999 Published at 13:47 GMT

World: Africa

UN alarmed over Burundi camps

The UN is calling on Burundi to close camps

By Chris Simpson in Kigali

The United Nations Security Council has warned of a serious humanitarian crisis in Burundi.

At a meeting in New York, the Security Council highlighted the food and health problems experienced by hundreds of thousands of villagers forced into recruitment camps as part of a government counter-insurgency campaign.

The Security Council said that the Burundian Government had to stop its policy of "forced regroupment", arguing that the dozens of camps set up in the west of the country should be dismantled and their residents allowed to return home.


The UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Ibrahima Fall, described the health and food situation inside the camps as "deplorable". He said relief organisations now had no access to the more than 300,000 people re-settled by the government.

The Burundian Government is highly unlikely to comply with the UN's request. Both ministers and military commanders remain adamant that the camps are there to protect the population from raids and attacks by Hutu militia groups engaged in a long-running guerrilla war against the government.

A military spokesman in Burundi said that the international community should be condemning rebel groups which had a genocidal agenda, rather than criticising a government trying to look after its people.

The spokesman added that the rebels posed no serious threat, with the government's military position stronger than ever before.

Peace settlement unlikely

[ image: Julius Nyerere: a force for peace]
Julius Nyerere: a force for peace
As the war continues, the chance of a peace settlement seems increasingly remote.

The death of former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere has robbed the Burundian peace process of its main mediator.

Various other African elder statesmen have been mentioned as possible peace brokers but no obvious willing candidate has so far emerged.

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