Women should be included in Burundi peace talks - ExCom
GENEVA, 5 Oct. (UNHCR) - The U.N. Refugee Agency's Executive Committee was told Thursday that more women should be included in the current peace talks on the central African state of Burundi.
"Refugee women must have a place at the peace table. They must be associated with the search for peace in their country," Caritas Sebashahu, a refugee from Burundi, told a panel discussion. "A person who is absent is like someone who is dead," she said, quoting a Burundi proverb.
Talks have been underway in the Tanzanian town of Arusha for many months to try to end years-long conflict in Burundi during which tens of thousands of people have been killed, and hundreds of thousands forced to flee.
Sebashahu said women were particularly concerned about existing land laws which barred women from inheriting land and therefore had a major adverse impact on the many widows inside the country and those in exile who would have nothing to return to when they went back to Burundi.
Bineta Diop, another panelist working for the non-governmental organization, Femmes Africa Solidarité, said women must be creative in pursuing their aims. "When the men representing the five clans in Somalia refused to include women in the Djibouti [peace] conference, women rallied together and insisted that they be included as the sixth clan," she said. "And it worked.
Women's groups in the west African states of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone were also instrumental in bringing together the leaders of those countries to discuss security problems. "We went to meet [Liberia's] President Taylor and told Taylor 'We understand that you are the key problem,'" she said. "After three hours of dialogue with him he said 'If I, Taylor, am the problem, then Taylor will solve the problem.'"
In contrast Diop expressed concern women apparently have not been included in forthcoming talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on the future of the African Great Lakes region.