Dutch rule out Burundi peacekeeping mission

24th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

24 August 2004 , AMSTERDAM — The Netherlands has ruled out deploying soldiers or F-16 jets in the short-term to the United Nations peacekeeping force in Burundi, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Ben Bot said on Tuesday.

24 August 2004

AMSTERDAM — The Netherlands has ruled out deploying soldiers or F-16 jets in the short-term to the United Nations peacekeeping force in Burundi, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Ben Bot said on Tuesday.

The spokesman was responding to a demand from the Labour PvdA and Democrat D66 parties to contribute soldiers or reconnaissance planes to the UN force in the Central African nation, news agency ANP reported.

But amid fears of more ethnic violence following a recent massacre at a refugee camp, the minister's spokesman said the Cabinet has not ruled out in the long-term providing a military contribution to the UN force Monuc in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

"The UN itself is now talking about expanding Monuc. We are awaiting this. Moreover, we preferably want the countries in that region to solve the matter with soldiers from that region," he said.

The spokesman also stressed that the Netherlands was already heavily involved in international peacekeeping operations, with troops already deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia.

The Dutch Cabinet agreed on 20 August to strengthen the nation's Afghan operations by deploying seven F-16 jets, a KDC-10 tanker plane and up to 210 soldiers to assist the ISAF stabilisation force secure the presidential election in Afghanistan planned for 9 October. 

Returning on Sunday from a visit to DR Congo and Burundi, Dutch MPs Bert Koenders (PvdA) and Boris Dittrich (D66) urged on Monday for a Dutch military contribution to the Monuc peacekeeping force.

Concerns for renewed genocide atrocities in the region have risen after the mass murder on 13 August of at least 150 Congolese Tutsis in the Gatumba refugee camp in Burundi. The Hutu rebel group FNL has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The UN has since said the survivors will be relocated away from the border with DR Congo after the Burundi government and the UNHCR agreed to open two new camps for the 20,000 Congolese Tutsi refugees, who fled fighting in DR Congo in June, BBC reported.

Koenders, Dittrich and Christian Democrat CDA MP Kathleen Ferrier visited the Gatumba camp during their trip last week and Koenders has claimed the UN force is no longer considered creditable in the region.

Furthermore, he said F-16s and reconnaissance jets are needed to be deployed to keep rebels under surveillance.

The opposition party MP said the region needed police support to counteract lawlessness, pointing out that at present there is no police or judicial system in the 40,000sq km region.

Sources have claimed that an assessment of the Monuc force has indicated that rather than needing additional troops or heavier weapons, better troops are needed who can, for example, speak French with the local population. Border patrols between DR Congo, Rwanda and Burundi also need improving.

Meanwhile, speaking as European Union President, Dutch Overseas Development Minister Agnes van Ardenne said on Sunday the FNL was a terrorist group and was not welcome at peace talks in Burundi.

Van Ardenne met with high-level dignitaries in Burundi on Sunday, including President Domitien Ndayizeye and said the perpetrators of the refugee camp murders could be tried in the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The Burundi government will final say over the prosecution process, but the proposal from the Dutch minister is expected to be agreeable for the Central African nation's government, news agency Novum reported.

Ethnic violence between Hutus and Tutsis has raged for some time in Burundi, DR Congo and Rwanda.
 
Van Ardenne will remain in the region for several more days for talks in preparation for an international conference in Tanzania in November, where the peace process will be high on the agenda.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news

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