6 June 2011

East Africa: EAC Launches Africa Year of Peace in Burundi

Photo: Martine Perret/UN
Weapons being burnt during the official launch of the Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (DDRR) process in Muramvya, Burundi. Burundian military signed up voluntarily to be disarmed under the auspices of United Nations peacekeepers and observers.

Bujumbura, Burundi — It was not by mistake that the government of Burundi and the East African Community (EAC) selected the 12-year old Linda Darlene Iradukunda to carry the Flame of Peace during the launch of the Year of Peace in Africa and destruction of arms that took place at St. Augustine of Buyenzi stadium in Bujumbura, Burundi.

She was selected to show to the world, Africa, East African leaders that whenever they are fighting for resources and political power, many people are killed leaving behind young orphaned children.

That is why the African Union summit of Heads of State in Addis Ababa in January 2010 expressed a strong desire to unshackle the continent of Africa from perennial conflicts.

In this respect the year 2010 was declared a Year of Peace in Africa when all member states and regional economic communities will work towards addressing conclusively the conflicts in the continent.

To crystallize this vision, all member states are expected to undertake activities that highlight the social and economic impact of conflicts on the continent and engage communities in finding durable solutions.

EAC as a regional economic community organized a three-kilometer match through Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi that ended up at St. Augustine of Buyenzi stadium where 1000 ammunitions recovered from illegal hands in Burundi were burnt.

The burning of the ammunitions was presided over by the Burundi First Deputy President Dr. Yves Sahinguvv.

This was after a four day meeting of internal security chiefs and Ministers who discussed how to secure the EAC integration and protect the gains made as a single unit.

"Insecurity arises from a number of sources including conflicts based on governance and inequitable distribution of resources, social, economic and political," said the EAC deputy secretary general in charge of political federation Beatrice Kiraso.

"That is why we are working on mechanisms that support collective measures towards prevention and resolution of conflicts in the region," she last week while addressing the public at the stadium.

She said the ongoing process to upgrade the memorandum of understanding on defence cooperation to a protocol is a critical component of this strategy.

All these measures she said are intended to provide a broad spectrum to reduce conflicts and reciprocally insecurity.

"We also view the electoral process in Burundi and other EAC states is a critical component of the conflict resolution matrix, hence the continued follow up by the EAC as a regional economic community," Kiraso explained.

She said the EAC good governance programme also focuses on human rights, anti-corruption, rule of law and administration of justice.

"The deepening of the integration with the implementation of the Customs Union protocol and the signing of the Common Market Protocol are all initiatives intended to provide space for East Africans to realize the potential within a wider physical and economic space that should be supported by minimizing possible situations of instability," Kiraso noted.

She said the removal of illicit small and light weapons has borne results in the last four years during which 21,000 arms and tonnes of ammunition have been surrendered.

"We are destroying 1000 out of 21,000 arms and the process is expected to be complete within the next two months, But over the last three year 120,000 assorted firearms have been destroyed in a partner states," she said.

Burundi Minister for Public Security Alaim Guillaume said the government has enacted a law that criminalises illegal possession of a firearm.

"It has resulted into seizure of 80,000 weapons by the National Disarmament Commission and these have contributed to the reduction of violence," he said. There has been a reduction in armed violence in the order of 38% out of 91% of Burundian population, according to the Armed Violence Observatory report. "The government of Burundi pledges to hold free, peaceful and transparent elections," he promised.

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