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Sunday, 28 October, 2001, 18:12 GMT
Peacekeepers arrive in Burundi
South African troops arrive in Burundi
The soldiers are to protect the new interim government
By Ishbel Matheson in Bujumbura

The first contingent of South African troops has arrived in Burundi as part of an international force to protect members of a new power-sharing interim government.

The South African soldiers' mission in Burundi is a delicate one.

map of Burundi
Some Tutsi politicians have expressed resentment that foreigners are being brought in to guarantee the safety of the returning Hutu exiles - they say the job should be done by the Burundian army.

But many Hutu politicians insist that a neutral protection force is essential if the formation of the transitional government is to go ahead.

Burundi has been engulfed in civil war since 1993.

The conflict between the Tutsi-dominated government and the Hutu rebels has cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, and caused massive suffering.

Hutu rebel opposition

Under a deal brokered by former South African President Nelson Mandela, an interim government, which will share power between Hutus and Tutsis is due to be formed on 1 November.

Some opposition politicians have already begun to return.

Jean Minani, leader of the Frodebu party, arrived in Bujumbura on Sunday to be greeted by applause and cheers from his supporters.

But the main Hutu rebel groups are still refusing to take part in the transitional government.

Without their involvement, there will be no early end to Burundi's war.

Judge Mark Bomani, advisor to Nelson Mandela
"I am hopeful that this agreement will hold"
South African defence ministry spokesman Sam Mkhwan
"The mandate is to protect political leaders"
See also:

09 Jul 01 | Africa
Mandela sees Burundi solution
23 May 01 | Africa
UN talk up Burundi peace
11 Jul 01 | Africa
SA troops earmarked for Burundi
25 Aug 00 | Africa
Burundi's deadly deadlock
10 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Burundi
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