World Bulletin/News Desk
Burundian President Peirre Nkurunziza on Tuesday began an official visit to South Africa – his first since assuming office in 2005 – during which he will discuss bilateral relations with South African counterpart Jacob Zuma.
The two leaders attended a signing ceremony for two bilateral agreements, including one on the establishment of Joint Commission for Cooperation that will meet at ministerial level.
"This important agreement will enhance cooperation in sectors such as culture, commerce, education, politics, defence, sports, mining, women's empowerment, investment, health, science and technology, communications, public works and finance," Zuma told a media briefing attended by an Anadolu Agency reporter.
The second agreement was on cooperation in the domains of art and culture.
"Our two countries share a rich history of struggle against discrimination and other ills," said Zuma.
"It is only proper that we should cooperate in sharing this history through cultural tourism, museums, the study of languages, literature and lecture tours," he added.
A key area of cooperation between the two countries is the trade and industry sector.
President Zuma noted that bilateral trade had increased from 47.7 million rand in 2007 to just over 52 million rand in 2013.
According to World Bank figures, Burundi is one of the top five poorest countries in the world, with a GDP of $2.7 billion and a population of about 10 million people.
"We continue to have a fight against poverty since the war is over," said President Nkurunziza.
The two presidents are expected to hold another round of talks on Wednesday.
South Africa has actively supported Burundi's quest for peace and democracy.
Zuma, then serving as deputy president, had led a protracted but ultimately successful mediation process, which had in turn led to the resolution of the Burundi conflict and a new government in 2005.
This mediation had also led to the deployment of South African peacekeeping troops in Burundi between 2003 and 2009.
President Nkurunziza announced that Burundi would send one battalion of soldiers to South Sudan, but stopped short of saying how many troops this would include.
South Sudan has been shaken by violence since last December, when President Salva Kiir accused Riek Machar, his sacked vice president, of leading a failed coup attempt against his regime.
Hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese have since been displaced in fighting between the two rivals, which has led to an increasingly dire humanitarian situation.
Nkurunziza insisted that Burundian troops had participated in successful peace missions in Somalia.
Somalia has remained in the grip of on-again, off-again violence since the outbreak of civil war in 1991.
The country appeared to inch closer to stability after government troops and African Union forces – deployed in the country since 2007 – recently drove the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab group from most of its strongholds.
Nkurunziza, meanwhile, confirmed that he would run for a third term as president, which, according to Burundi's current constitution, is prohibited.
He spoke about necessary constitutional amendments.
Regarding the situation in Burkina Faso, Nkurunziza said his country would advise the troubled country to seek a democratic transition.
Burkina Faso descended into turmoil after longstanding president Blaise Compaore proposed a constitutional amendment that would have allowed him to seek another term in office.
In power since 1987, Compaore was forced to step down on Friday and has since travelled with his family to the Ivory Coast.
On Saturday, the Burkinabe army named Isaac Zida, the second-in-command of the presidential guard under Compaore, as the country's new interim president.
The move angered the country's opposition, however, which asserted that Compaore had left office due to a popular uprising and not a military coup.
Last Mod: 04 Kasım 2014, 15:58