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Wednesday, 1 December, 1999, 19:23 GMT
Mandela to head Burundi peace drive
Nelson Mandela Nelson Mandela will lead attempts to end the six-year war

By East Africa correspondent Cathy Jenkins

Former South African President Nelson Mandela has been named as the new mediator in peace talks to try to end the civil war in Burundi.

Mr Mandela takes over the role of the former Tanzanian president, Julius Nyerere, who died in October.

A spokeswoman for Mr Mandela said he was pleased to take on the job, and would begin work this weekend. The appointment has been welcomed by the Burundian Government and main opposition parties.

The announcement came during a meeting of African heads of state, who have gathered in the Tanzanian town of Arusha.

The heads of state will be hoping that someone with the international standing of Mr Mandela will be able to breathe new life into the Burundi peace process.

Talks to try to end six years of civil war between the Tutsi-led government and Hutu rebels began more than one year ago.

So far, they have failed to stop the fighting and the past few months have seen an increase in attacks by Hutu rebels around the capital, Bujumbura.

Scepticism

Burundi army The war has left 200,000 people dead
Sceptics have asked whether either side is really interested in a peace process at all.

Mr Nyerere was viewed with some suspicion by the Burundian Government, which accuses Tanzania of harbouring Hutu rebels in refugee camps inside Tanzania.

The civil war in Burundi began in 1993 after the murder of the country's first democratically-elected Hutu president.

Hutus form about 85% of Burundi's population, and the Hutus who took up arms against the Tutsi-led government accuse it of discrimination against Hutus in all fields.

The current government is led by Major Pierre Buyoya, who took power in a military coup in 1996.

More than 200,000 people are estimated to have died in the war, the majority of them civilians.
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See also:
03 Nov 99 |  Africa
Burundi's deadly deadlock
30 Nov 99 |  Africa
East Africa's first steps towards union

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