MINISTER RECEIVES RESULTS OF INVESTIGATION INTO MURDER OF ARCHBISHOP MICHAEL COURTNEY
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Brian Cowen, T.D., today met with the Burundian Foreign Minister, Mr. Therence Sinunguruza, to receive the results of the investigation carried out by the Burundian Government into the murder, on 29 December 2003, of the Irish-born Papal Nuncio to Burundi, Archbishop Michael Courtney.
Speaking after the meeting, Minister Cowen said
“The murder of Archbishop Michael Courtney was a truly tragic event for the people of Burundi, for his family, for the Holy See and for all his friends and admirers both here in Ireland and around the world. He was a true disciple of peace.
His loss continues to be deeply felt, not just by his family, the people of Burundi and the Holy See but by all who had the honour of knowing and working with him during his distinguished career.”
Minister Cowen also announced the establishment of the Courtney Fellowship which will sponsor a Burundian student to pursue a Masters level course in governance or peace studies over one year for the next five years. The fellowship will be funded under Development Cooperation Ireland's Fellowship Training Programme.
The Minister commented that "the establishment of this fellowship is a fitting memorial to the late Archbishop Courtney. It will allow his work for peace to be built upon and leave behind a lasting legacy. It will allow Burundian students to pursue governance or peace studies and I can think of no finer field in which to establish this fellowship."
The two Ministers also took the opportunity to discuss the ongoing peace process in Burundi. Minister Cowen said
“We are heartened by the progress made in the recent peace talks in the Netherlands between the Burundian President and the FNL and hope these will continue to a successful conclusion.
The EU and the Irish Presidency continue to be fully supportive of the efforts now underway to achieve a final end to the conflict.
Ireland's financial contribution to the African Union-led peacekeeping mission is, I believe, a practical expression of our support, nationally and as Presidency, for African-led initiatives to prevent and resolve conflicts in Africa”.
During his visit, the Burundian Foreign Minister will also meet with the family of the late Archbishop and will inform them of the Burundian Government's decision to present a posthumous award to Archbishop Courtney.
NOTE FOR EDITORS:
Archbishop Michael Courtney, Papal Nuncio to Burundi, was murdered when his car was ambushed in Minago, south of the capital Bujumbura, on 29 December last while the Nuncio was returning from a funeral. Burundian authorities have now arrested a 20 year-old male who has admitted to being involved in the ambush which led to the Archbishop's murder.
The peace process in Burundi has now reached an important phase, with the launching of talks in January between the President of Burundi, Domitien Ndayizeye, and the FNL, the last remaining armed group outside the peace process. The talks are being facilitated by the Netherlands government and the next round of talks is scheduled to take place next month.
The African Mission in Burundi (AMIB) has been established by the African Union to assist in the implementation of the ceasefire agreements in Burundi. It is the first such force in the history of the African Union and deployment of the Mission has already been completed.
In January, Minister Cowen announced a national contribution of €500,000 to AMIB, This contribution was made in response to an appeal by the UN Secretary General to all UN member states for urgent funding to cover the operating costs of the 3,000-strong Mission. The Mission comprises peace-keeping troops from South Africa, Mozambique and Ethiopia.
Development Cooperation Ireland's Fellowship Training Programme seeks to address key capacity deficits in developing countries. The Courtney Fellowship, which is to be funded under the Programme, will facilitate one Burundian student per year for the next five years who wish to study in Ireland. The Fellowship will be aimed at Masters level study in governance or peace studies.