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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 October, 2003, 21:58 GMT 22:58 UK
UK-funded troops land in Burundi
Burundi refugee with baby
Ten years of war has led to hundreds of thousands of refugees
UK-funded troops sent to disarm rebels in Burundi have arrived in the Central African nation's capital, Bujumbura.

The 217-strong Mozambican contingent aims to help end the decade-long civil war that has claimed an estimated 300,000 mainly civilian lives.

The 2,870-strong peacekeeping force in Burundi is now complete, said the head of the African Union peace mission in Burundi, Mamadou Bah.

Persistent fighting among rebel factions has undermined hope for an end to the war despite several peace agreements.

This is the first African Union peacekeeping force, comprising 1,600 South African troops, 980 Ethiopians and 290 Mozambicans.

The UK Government has given Mozambique 3.7m to help implement the 2002 peace deal between the Burundi Government and three of four Hutu rebel groups.

'Ready to go'

Minister for Africa Chris Mullin said the deployment was a significant step for Mozambique and Burundi.

"We were pleased to provide assistance to the Mozambique Government to enable this deployment to go ahead," he said.

"The mission is a significant first for African peacekeeping operations.

"It is a concrete example of the commitment of African leaders to establish peace and security in their own continent."

At a ceremony at Bujumbura airport to welcome the Mozambicans Mr Bah said: ""We are ready to deploy the contingent in the countryside for the task it was called here for."

The troops are tasked with providing the warring parties safe passage to designated assembly areas and easing the delivery of humanitarian aid.

But a rebel group, the National Liberation Forces, has refused to join peace talks, saying those discussions will do nothing to overturn the long-standing dominance of the Tutsi minority in the country of 6.5 million people.

The African Union mission is due to stay for a year, pending the expected deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping force.

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14 Oct 03  |  Africa
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27 Sep 03  |  Africa
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01 May 03  |  Africa
Country profile: Burundi
04 Oct 03  |  Country profiles


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