Zuma appeals to UN to take over peacekeeping operations

South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma, who is also the facilitator of the Burundi peace process, appealed on Thursday to the UN Security Council to take over peacekeeping operations in the central African nation, saying the level of violence in the country had fallen sharply this year, UN News reported.

At a meeting of the council in New York, Zuma also called for greater financial support from the international community for the Burundi peace process.

A peacekeeping force of the African Union (AU), comprising troops from Ethiopia, Mozambique and South Africa, is in Burundi to monitor the transition to democracy and provide protection for politicians returning to the country from exile.

UN News reported that he told the council that Burundi had made "tremendous advances" towards peace and stability over the last year, but now faced challenges from the disarmament and reintegration of combatants and the return of refugees.

He said the recent ceasefire in Burundi - which has been plagued by civil strife for a decade - had led to a mood of optimism and great expectations.

"The Burundi peace process has entered a decisive and irreversible stage," UN News quoted Zuma as having told the council.

On 16 November, the transitional government of Burundi and the country's largest rebel group, the Conseil National pour la défense de la démocratie-Force pour la défense de la démocratie (CNDD-FDD), signed an agreement endorsing political, defence and security power sharing in the war-torn country.

UN News reported that Zuma told the council that Burundi needed help to disarm, demobilise and reintegrate former rebel fighters into society, and to coordinate the return of refugees and internally displaced people.

The UN Economic and Social Council's president, Gert Rosenthal of Guatemala, said the UN could "play a catalytic role" to support Burundi's stability and subsequent development, UN News reported.

It said that council members also expressed concern that another Burundian rebel faction, the Forces nationales de liberation (FNL) led by Agathon Rwasa, had not joined the peace process.

The South African news agency, SAPA, reported on Thursday that the Netherlands had given South Africa some US $1 million to help it pay for its peacekeeping expenses in Burundi.

"The generous contribution will make a substantial contribution to the South African Department of Defence's deployment under the AU Mission in Burundi," Mosiuoa Lekota, South African defence minister, was quoted as saying after the signing of the agreement in Pretoria.