Secretary-General Kofi Annan's initiative to bring lasting peace, stability and development to the countries of Central Africa, several of which have been torn by decades of war, took an important step in early September 2004 with the first preparatory committee meeting for a regional summit, which will be held by the end of the year. Participants from the seven core countries of the International Conference for the Great Lakes region--Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia--and from neighbouring States and regional organization, gathered in Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, for the week-long meeting, the first of three before the summit. The International Conference for peace, security, democracy and development in the Great Lakes region was first proposed by Mr. Annan and is co-sponsored by the United Nations and the African Union.

As government forces and the rebels in Burundi continued to clash near Bujumbura, United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were constructing temporary shelters for an estimated 25,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on 15 September. The new camps in Kabezi Commune, just south of the Burundi capital, put some distance between the IDPs and government military positions, which are regularly attacked by the Front National de Liberation (FNL)--the only rebel group not to have joined the peace process after a decade of war in the country. In May, the Security Council established the UN Operation in Burundi (ONUB), with an eventual strength of 5,650 military personnel and up to 1,000 national and international civilian staff, to help restore lasting peace and bring about national reconciliation between ethnic Hutus and Tutsis.

The UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) on 23 September relinquished security responsibility to government forces for the last of the country's four provinces. UN peacekeepers in the western area, which includes the capital Freetown, lowered the United Nations flag for the last time and handed it over to the Commander of the UNAMSIL Northern Command, Brig. Gen. Alhaji Nuhu Bamalli, who then gave it to the regional police commander, Chief Superintendent Sahid Ibrahim Koroma. There was also a change of guard from UN peacekeepers to officers of the Sierra Leone Police. Speaking at the ceremony, UNAMSIL Force Commander Maj. Gen. Sajjad...

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