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Tuesday, 13 June, 2000, 14:42 GMT 15:42 UK
Mandela visits 'concentration camps'
Hutus in the regroupment camp
Hutus in the camps have been kept in miserable conditions
Nelson Mandela has visited two refugee camps to the east of the capital, Bujumbura, on the second day of his visit to Burundi in his role as chief negotiator in the peace process.

He then travelled on to the central city of Gitega, where he was due to address a rally and stay overnight.

The regroupment camps, housing hundreds of thousands of Hutu civilians, have attracted international condemnation and the former South African president has previously called them "concentration camps".

Human rights groups say the conditions in the camps are deplorable.

The Burundian Government, who said the camps were set up to protect the civilians from rebel attacks, has begun closing them and promised to have them all shut down by the end of July.

Mr Mandela is also due to meet representatives of rebel groups, and see the Burundi army command.

Civil war erupted in Burundi in 1993, with several Hutu factions campaigning against the Tutsi-dominated government and army.

Detentions

On the first day of his visit, Mr Mandela met political prisoners in Burundi. He also held talks with President Pierre Buyoya.


Nelson Mandela
Mandela met Burundian political prisoners
He spoke to about 60 inmates in the main prison of the capital, Bujumbura, some of whom have been detained for seven years.

He told them that he had discussed the release of political prisoners with Mr Buyoya, who was in Johannesburg last week.

"If we are looking for peace here in Burundi, all the political prisoners have to be released," he said.

Several attempts to end the conflict since 1993 have failed.

During an earlier round of talks Mr Mandela angered the Tutsi political establishment in Burundi by comparing Tutsi domination to South African apartheid.

Breakthrough

But in a recent breakthrough in the peace process, Burundi agreed to equal representation for Hutus and Tutsis in the armed forces, which are at present overwhelmingly Tutsi-dominated.

This opened the way to the first face-to-face talks between the government and the main Hutu rebel group, which are due to take place next month.

Ugandan Prime Minister Apolo Nsimbambi will also take part in the current discussions between Mr Mandela and Mr Buyoya.

President Yoweri Museveni had originally been invited, but was unable to attend.

An estimated 200,000 Hutus and Tutsis have been killed in the civil war.

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27 Mar 00 | Africa
Burundi's deadly deadlock
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