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Peace force seeks Burundi solution

A regional intervention force will be sent to war-torn Burundi, following a resolution passed at the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) summit which ended in Cameroon yesterday.

The peace-keeping plan is designed to quell fighting between rebels from Burundi's Hutu majority and the Tutsi-dominated army. Up to 1,000 people are killed in the central African state every month.

The plight of Burundi headed the agenda of the OAU which has been considering ways of bringing peace and stability to Africa. Under the terms of the proposals, agreed at a regional meeting in Tanzania last month, an East African force of Ugandans, Tanzanians and Ethiopians will endeavour to end the crisis which threatens to engulf Burundi.

Much has yet to be decided: when the force will be sent, what its manpower will be and how it will be deployed.

One of the most contentious issues has been the control of the proposed peace-keeping force. The technical panel planning the mission has stipulated that it should be under independent command. Burundi's defence minister, who only reluctantly accepted the need for foreign intervention, insists that command should remain with the national army.

Sources at the OAU summit indicate that there will, at least in theory, be an integrated command structure. But on the ground, non-Burundians will be in charge of the operation.

The OAU's ratification of the proposals will lend weight to the intervention plan which has been threatened by friction within the Burundian government. The first peace-keeping troops could be in place in Burundi by the end of this month.