Officials from members of the Economic Community of Central African States as well as civil society, the army and police gathered in Burundi's capital, Bujumbura, on Monday to discuss ways to improve civilian-military relations in the region.
The aim should be to devise "a process for consolidating peace, democracy and development in central Africa", said Carolyn McAskie, the UN Special Representative to Burundi, who took part in the opening ceremony.
One participant, Burundian Lt-Col Donatien Nkurunziza, acknowledged there had been several recent complaints from civilians "about violence by the Burundian armed forces or rebel fighters".
The three-day workshop has drawn participants from Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo (Democratic Republic of), Congo (Republic of), Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Rwanda, as well as Sao Tome e Principe. Angola, which is an ECCAS member state, was represented at the opening.
ECCAS has responsibility for the peace and security of the subregion.
Improved "relations are required to consolidate political openness [for many African countries] in this crucial period of transition to democracy", said Teferra Shiawl Kidanekal, the head of the UN Subregional Centre of Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa.
Burundi's vice-president, Alphonse-Marie Kadege, said the main obstacle to peace and democracy in the Great Lakes was the presence of what he termed "negative forces". He was alluding to the armed groups in eastern DRC.
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