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Waging Peace: Burundi

Following the Rwandan genocide of 1994, the presidents of five Great Lakes nations asked President Carter to help them work out a peace initiative for the region.

+Peace in Africa's Great Lakes Region

The presidents of Uganda and Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) asked President Carter to facilitate a meeting between themselves and the presidents of Burundi, Rwanda, and Tanzania – countries collectively known as the Great Lakes region of Africa – to negotiate a regional initiative to combat the climate of genocide, repatriate 1.7 million Rwandan refugees, and curb violence in the region. President Carter was joined in this effort by former Tanzania President Julius Nyerere, former Mali President Amadou Touré, and South Africa Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

After summits in Cairo and Tunis in March 1996, the Great Lakes presidents agreed to:

1. Prevent cross-border raids into any country;

2. Halt arms flow to rebel groups;

3. Remove people stirring fears that it is unsafe to return to Rwanda from refugee camps;

4. Return military equipment to its country of origin, including Rwandan equipment held in Zaire;

5. Turn over individuals indicted for genocide crimes to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda; and

6. Allow some 300 human rights observers in Rwanda to work with returning refugees.

However, despite these important commitments and strenuous efforts to implement them, there was little support from the international community, and most refugees finally returned to Rwanda only when full-scale violence broke out in Zaire in October 1996.

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Size: 27,830 square kilometers

Population: 11,865,821

Population below poverty line: 64.6%

Life expectancy: 66.7 years

Ethnic groups: Hutu (Bantu), Tutsi (Hamitic), Twa (Pygmy), Europeans, South Asians

Religions: Roman Catholic, Protestant (includes Adventist, other Protestant), Muslim, and others

Languages: Kirundi (official), French (official), Swahili, English (official), and others

Source: U.S. Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook 2020


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