SA, Burundi cement ties

Friday, August 12, 2011

Pretoria - South Africa and Burundi have signed several cooperation deals in defence, education and agriculture during President Jacob Zuma's visit to the central African country.

Zuma arrived on Wednesday for a state visit to promote trade and investment in Burundi, where he also mediated peace deals in the early 2000s to end a long-running ethnic conflict that erupted in 1993.

In his address to the Burundian Parliament on Thursday, Zuma commended the people for what he said was putting their country first, where they embraced peace and democratic rule after nearly 15 years of civil war.

He described the successful resolution of the Burundian conflict as a testament to Africa being able to solve its own problems.

"The story of Burundi is a victory not only for Burundi but also for the African continent because we proved that as Africans, we can achieve peace," Zuma said.

He told the MPs there that South Africa stands ready to help during their period of reconstruction and strengthening democracy.

"We are not here to discuss the peace process. We are here to discuss post-conflict reconstruction and development and to work with the Burundian people towards a future of peace and prosperity."

Pretoria was keen to partner with Burundi in agriculture, Zuma said, as it employed 80% of that country's economically active people.

Other areas included infrastructure development, agro-processing, higher education, defence, mining, tourism and private sector development.

Support for higher education would include technical cooperation on building capacity to manage higher education, teacher education and higher education planning.

"We also envisage cooperation amongst our universities on joint research projects, student and academic exchange programmes.

"This visit serves to also kick-start improved economic cooperation. South Africa would like to see increased volumes of trade and investment between the two countries," added Zuma.

Zuma also used the opportunity to speak out on NATO attacks in Libya, saying they are seeking a regime change in an unacceptable manner.

"We have found ourselves in a situation where the developed world has decided to intervene in Africa in a manner that was not agreed to when the UN resolution 1973 authorising a no fly zone to protect civilians was passed.

"We have found this resolution being abused in a manner that is totally unacceptable, which gives an impression that the NATO allies could in fact be seeking a regime change in Libya," said Zuma.

He reiterated the AU's call for African solutions to African problems, and for a need for a cessation of hostilities to allow a Libyan dialogue.

He said Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has agreed not to be part of the Libyan dialogue.
"What we need now is for the allies to allow the space for such a dialogue to take place."

Zuma said now was the time for African parliamentarians to work with SA in promoting African solutions, so that the continent's voice can be heard on matters of conflict resolution, from Somalia to Libya.

The President also called for the reform of the UN, saying South Africa is committed to working with other "like-minded" states towards improving the working methods of the UN Security Council for a more legitimate, accountable, transparent, representative and effective body.

"The council needs to be responsive to the needs of the developing world when it comes to the quest for peace and security," he said, adding that more importantly, it must be in tune with the African continent and give Africa the space to solve its problems.

Zuma and his delegation will conclude their visit today. The delegation accompanying him includes the Ministers of International Relations and Co-operation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Higher Education Blade Nzimande, Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu and Deputy Trade and Industry Minister Thandi Tobias-Pokolo.

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