Address by Deputy President Zuma to
the Workshop of the Burundi Women's Initiative South
African Air Force Headquarters, Pretoria, 14 June 2004
The First Lady, Mrs Zanele Mbeki,
The Speaker of Parliament, Ministers, Deputy Ministers,
Members of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures,
General Siphiwe Nyanda,
Leaders of political parties,
Members of the diplomatic corps,
Representatives of the business and religious sectors,
Traditional leaders and traditional healers,
Thank you for the opportunity afforded to me to interact
with you today, as you deliberate on how to extend the
co-operation between South Africa and Burundi.
We have, over the last few years, worked closely with
our sisters and brothers in Burundi to achieve peace,
stability and the restoration of democracy in that country.
It is therefore appropriate and timely that South African
women should familiarise themselves with the Burundi
peace process, and to find ways and means of working
with their Barundi sisters to achieve peace and security
in that country.
I must hasten to add that this initiative falls squarely
within the objectives of our country, to work for peace
and security in the continent.
Within the ambit of the AU and earlier of the OAU,
we have become involved in various initiatives, including
the prevention, management and resolution of conflict.
We have also become involved in working for the socio-economic
regeneration of the continent, through the elaboration
of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).
Our involvement stems from the belief that we should
not be an island of relative tranquillity amidst suffering
in our continent. It is our duty to assist where we
can, to make the dream of an African Renaissance a reality.
We are involved to achieve the vision of an Africa that
is free from conflict, wars and famine, and an Africa
that can exploit its resources for the benefit of all,
to achieve prosperity and a better life.
The achievement of these objectives requires the participation
of both men and women, and so far, the involvement of
women has been somewhat minimal. The role of women is
more important in activities relating to conflict resolution,
especially given the huge impact of wars on women and
children, including destitution, brutality such as rape,
murder and famine.
The presence of women from various political persuasions
and organisations at this meeting is a good demonstration
that South African women appreciate the important role
they need to play to bring about peace and stability.
This effort must be encouraged, and we are pleased that
a similar dialogue was organised between the women of
South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo not
too long ago.
With regard to Burundi, I must report that given the
progress that has been made so far, we believe that
there can be no turning back.
The next few months are going to be critical. The Great
Lakes Regional Heads of State Summit held on 5 June
in Tanzania has given a clear directive that the elections
should go ahead as planned on the 31st of October 2004.
This will usher in a democratically elected government,
in accordance with the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation
Agreement of August 2000.
The implementation of the timetable leading to the
elections is going to involve a lot of hard work for
all the Barundi people. Some of the milestones in this
regard include the institution of the Independent Electoral
Commission, and the passing of the electoral law, the
drawing up and passing of the post-transition Constitution
and a communal law.
To further advance the peace process, I will on Thursday
and Friday this week be in Burundi, as mandated by the
recent Heads of State Summit, to help the Transitional
Government of Burundi and the Burundi parties to reach
agreements based on understanding and compromises, on
outstanding issues relating to power-sharing.
The successful conclusion of the talks will hopefully
contribute towards building certainty regarding the
post-election political society that will emerge.
Regarding the security situation in Burundi, you would
be aware that there is still an armed group that remains
outside the peace process, the Palipehutu-FNL led by
Noting that the group continues to pose an obstacle
to the peace process, and a threat to security and stability
in Burundi, the June 5 Summit urged the AU Peace and
Security Council to consider the activities of this
group in light of the AU Constitutive Act, the AU Convention
on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism and other
relevant AU instruments and decisions, and to recommend
appropriate political and legal action within three
The summit also urged that during the three month period,
the Palipehutu-FNL should take advantage and join the
peace process. I will make myself available should the
movement choose to use this period to engage in serious
I must emphasise that Burundian women have a very important
role to play in the road ahead, leading to elections
Therefore the planned dialogue between South African
and Burundian women next month will be very important
in advancing the peace process, and in promoting the
participation of women in the peace process.
There are a number of outstanding issues that require
the attention of the Burundian women, to contribute
to the peace process.
Having borne the brunt of the war, women need to put
pressure on the various political parties to implement
the agreements they have signed, the Arusha Peace and
Reconciliation Agreement of 2000 and the three ceasefire
Women need to become visible in all formations and
be part of preparations aimed at ensuring that the October
elections are free and fair, and that they lead to a
new democratic order in that country.
In addition, women should be part of the effort of
ensuring that the post-election democratic order is
The women of Burundi cannot afford to be passive; this
is their future and the future of their children. At
this critical stage in the history of their country,
they should really make their voices heard through a
number of forums and opportunities. For example, they
could make their views known to the Great Lakes regional
leadership, to the African Union and United Nations,
who have representatives in Burundi, and also to the
Also requiring attention is the participation of women
in resolving challenges such as the social impact of
the Burundi conflict. Hundreds of refugees that are
returning home require assistance.
There are also the challenges of the demobilisation
and reintegration of combatants within communities,
including the rehabilitation of former child soldiers
who were part of armed groups.
As you deliberate today, you may also look at the issue
of post-election reconstruction and development, the
role women can play in this regard. This will also contribute
to ensuring the sustainability of the democracy that
will emerge after October.
There is therefore clearly a lot of work still to be
done in Burundi, and we are pleased at this initiative,
which will involve women from both South Africa and
Burundi in the search for lasting solutions. We are
confident that at the end of this workshop, you will
arrived at a number of other interventions in which
women could participate and make a difference.
Compatriots, let me once again thank you for joining
this mission of achieving peace in our continent. I
must truly commend Mrs Mbeki and colleagues for initiating
this very important dialogue.
The building of solidarity between Burundian and South
African women is a step in the right direction.
We wish you well in your discussions, and look forward
to working with you on this project in the future.
I thank you