Address by Nelson Mandela to people of Burundi

April 2003

Mister President
Mister Vice-President
Chairman of the Regional Heads of States
Heads of States and Governments
Representatives of Heads of States and Governments
Representatives of the International Community
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen
And particularly:
The Leaders and the People of Burundi

It is a great privilege and honour to return once more to Bujumbura, one of the most beautiful African capitals and a place that I shall regard as central to any legacy that posterity may judge me to have left to peace on our continent and in the world.

It is a source of great pride to return to this place today to celebrate this historic moment in the long and often too painful process of searching for peace, democracy, stability and a better life for the people in this small but beautiful country.

Today is a great day for Burundi, for the Great Lakes Region, for Africa, and indeed for the world.

Allow me to repeat what I said here on 1 November 2001 when we inaugurated the transitional government.

I told the gathered audience then that on the 19th January 2000 we reported to the United Nations Security Council that we had paid a first visit to Arusha on Sunday 16th January 2000 to acquaint ourselves with the facilitation team, the international agencies and representatives involved in the process and, most importantly, the heads of delegations from the Burundian political parties and role-players. We then said to the Security Council (and I quote):

"We came away from that meeting impressed by the potential and quality of leadership present in Burundi. We met and interacted with people of outstanding intelligence and education.

There are political processes and sets of dynamics underway which, if harnessed and directed in constructive routes, could form the basis for a lasting political settlement in that hitherto troubled country."

We have not nearly reached the end of that road. Many serious problems and daunting challenges remain. But today is another signal that we are making progress on that route. Today shows that the confidence in the leadership of Burundi we spoke of in our report to the Security Council in January 2000 was not misplaced.

The prophets of doom were many, and they remain amongst us; but you, the leadership and people of Burundi, have demonstrated your commitment to seek for peace amidst all of the difficulties and disruptions.

I want to pay special tribute to President Pierre Buyoyo and Vice-President Domitien Ndayizeye. That you have brought your country to this point in the transitional process will ensure your places in the history of your country and of the continent.

Our tributes must also go to all of the signatory parties of the Arusha Peace Accord who worked to bring us to this point.

And to the Burundi Defence Force for their stabilising role.

And to the people and civil society in Burundi.

We gather here today in a world where it seems that multilateralism is under much more threat than was the case when we signed the Arusha Peace Accord or installed the transitional government.

It appears as if we might have entered an era where the mighty may take it upon themselves to decide how the world and individual countries should be governed and run.

This tiny African country can strike a blow for multilateralism and dialogue if it can prove that negotiations and talk can lead to peaceful co-existence.

Let me repeat what I said in November 2001: Do not fail us, do not fail the world. But above all, do not fail yourself and your people. Your country has bled enough. It and its people now deserve enduring peace.

Throughout my involvement in the peace process I deliberately refrained from referring to South Africa as an example. Every country and people must work out and find the solutions appropriate to their circumstances.

Today I wish to make a small exception and point to the presence here of the leaders of two of our opposition parties, Minister Buthelezi and Premier Van Schalkwyk. They are the leaders of the Inkatha Freedom Party and the National Party respectively. These parties and the African National Congress can point to deep and often brutal historical differences. Yet we came together in the first Government of National Unity in 1994, and today we continue to co-operate in government. We hope that in a small way our joint presence here will help to inspire you, the people of Burundi, to a joint and united future.

Let it go well with you the people of Burundi.

God bless Afrika

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation