[Note: A transcript of this meeting is unavailable. The discussion is summarized below.]
Speaking at this month's Great Lakes Policy Forum was Gayle Smith, Senior Director for African Affairs, National Security Council; Ambassador Howard Wolpe, Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region, State Department; and John Prendergast, Special Adviser for African Affairs, State Department. This month Forum participants were presented with the opportunity to review the past, analyze the present and discuss prospects for the future of Central Africa and the Great Lakes region. The distinguished panel provided insight into the humanitarian work being done on the ground, issues of human rights, capacity building, and ultimately the rooted historical differences that have divided these African nations.
In the case of Burundi, progress has been made toward peace. The Arusha accords (August 2000), was signed by 19 signatories and there was talk of a suspension of hostilities. A cease-fire could not be discussed as the rebel factions were not present at the signing. By the same token, the Arusha document was met with reservation and there was no conclusion to the discussion of who would be the transitional government's leader. Therefore, even though progress has been made on the road to peace, the residual damage that has been left by years of minority domination and majority exclusion will take some time to overcome.
In Central Africa, efforts are being made to refocus on two fundamental elements of the Lusaka Accord : The transitional government and the threat of non-state actors. At present, talks are being held to examine the opportunity for a formal dialogue, since many feel that little progress is being made. Furthermore, there is a focus on establishing practical ways of addressing security issues and mechanisms for accountability.
In terms of human rights, there needs to be an increased effort to encourage Central African nations to better their human rights record. Ultimately, for this to happen there needs to be high level involvement within the human rights discussions.
Peace and reconciliation discussions must be pushed forward at every level. Small levels of humanitarian assistance does not help the situation in Burundi or Central Africa. Public statements of outrage only do so much good. The star programs are the local governance projects that run day-to-day to build the capacity of civil society and assist in maintaining law and order.
Please contact Chloe Marnay Baszanger,
Research Associate for the Center For Preventive Action,
Rapporteur for the Great Lakes Policy Forum