March 2006 Monthly Forecast

Posted 24 February 2006
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Expected Council Action
The Council will discuss the Secretary-General’s drawdown plan for the UN Operation in Burundi (ONUB) and possible adjustments to its mandate. The plan will be presented in a report from the Secretary-General due by 15 March.

In addition, the Council will discuss the redeployment of ONUB troops to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to reinforce the UN Mission in the Congo (MONUC), as envisaged in resolution 1650 of 21 December 2005.

Key Facts
The Council established ONUB in May 2004 to, inter alia,

  • patrol Burundi’s borders, with particular attention to combatants, and monitor the illegal flow of weapons in cooperation with MONUC and the DRC Group of Experts;
  • facilitate the return of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs);
  • monitor the ceasefire agreements between the government and rebel groups;
  • carry out the security sector reform; and
  • assist the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) of former combatants.

In late 2005, following the adoption of a new constitution and the election of Pierre Nkurunziza as president, Council members were informed of the Burundian government’s desire to see ONUB withdrawn as soon as possible to signal the success of the peace process to the international community. Burundi’s request comes in line with its recent rejection of a proposal by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General Carolyn McAskie for the establishment of a donor forum comprised of Council members, the UN, the AU, neighbouring countries and key partners to help mobilise funds. The rejection came amidst fears that the forum would interfere with the government’s powers and justify an extension of ONUB’s mandate.

The Council and the Secretary-General expressed concern with the request since threats still exist, particularly from Forces nationales de libération (FNL), a Hutu rebel group that has not acceded to the peace process. Talks have been mediated by Tanzania, but attacks originating from FNL bases in the DRC have occurred in western Burundi. Matters are complicated by the possibility that a ceasefire might be reached after ONUB is withdrawn.

The peace process has improved the security situation in the country, but there are still considerable challenges. Hundreds of thousands of refugees and IDPs still wait to return, and there are recent reports of new flows of Burundian refugees arriving in Tanzania due to insecurity and malnutrition. And despite a decrease in FNL numbers, analysts estimate that the group can still terrorise the population and that it has forged an alliance with Rwandan Hutu rebels present in the DRC.

The withdrawal of 40 percent of the UN troops nonetheless began in December 2005, following the Council’s decision to renew ONUB until 1 July 2006 in resolution 1650.

The resolution also included the possibility of a transfer of forces between ONUB and MONUC with the proviso that troops would remain under their original peacekeeping mission. But the sharing of troops needs prior agreement both from the Council and troop contributing countries, mainly Nepal, Pakistan and South Africa.

An assessment team visited Burundi in January to prepare the drawdown plan. It is expected that the Secretary-General will recommend final withdrawal of all troops by the end of the year.

It is also expected that the Secretary-General will submit a letter recommending the redeployment of some of ONUB’s troops to the DRC to provide security during the Congolese elections due by mid-2006. But difficulties with obtaining consent from troop-contributing countries have delayed the process.

Key Issues
The key issue is the adoption of a downsizing plan for ONUB while maintaining a stable situation on the ground. Another issue is the end-date for the mission, but given the divisions inside the Council on the matter, it is possible that a final decision will be taken by July, when ONUB’s mandate expires.

A related issue will be the adoption of a new mandate for ONUB reflecting its current size and the situation on the ground.

Whether ONUB troops should be authorised to assist MONUC in general terms or whether assistance will be confined to the electoral period is another issue, as is the costs of such assistance.

Council Dynamics
There is no significant division inside the Council on the need to balance ONUB’s withdrawal with the maintenance of stability in Burundi.

But resistance from some Council members against withdrawal by the end of the year is also expected, with indications that those countries may support ONUB’s continuing presence beyond December. Some Council members-especially France and Tanzania-still have concerns about the lack of a ceasefire with the FNL.

A continuation of ONUB, however, is likely to elicit resistance from the US and Japan, and from Burundi itself. On the issue of troop sharing, some members-particularly the US and Japan-are keen to establish a clear timeframe and purpose for the redeployment, namely the elections in the DRC. But there are no indications of divisions in the Council on the need for reinforcing MONUC during the elections. Troop-contributing countries have, nonetheless, voiced such concerns.

Extending the drawdown beyond December 2006 is a possible option, but the decision could be deferred to July, when ONUB expires. Another option would be to redesign ONUB’s mandate concomitantly with the drawdown plan to reflect ONUB’s size and tasks ahead. Of particular importance to any new mandate will be the patrolling of borders, the completion of DDR programmes and the return of refugees.

Some initial Council discussions about Burundi as a candidate for the new Peacebuilding Commission would also be an option.

Council members may also want to follow up on the status of the establishment in Burundi of a truth and reconciliation commission, as well as a serious crimes chamber.

Underlying Problems
Regional relations have improved under the umbrella of the joint commission comprised of Burundi, the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda.

Challenges for Burundi include the FNL, strengthening the security sector, the reintegration of refugees and the strengthening of governance, democracy and rule of law. The situation is far from resolved, particularly on the issue of land ownership and accountability for past human rights crimes.

The Council has expressed support for the establishment of mechanisms to address impunity and reconciliation. Bujumbura has supported, in principle, the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission and of a serious crimes chamber in its court system. But there have been considerable delays in the process, and it is not clear whether the commission’s work will lead to amnesty for some of the perpetrators. The modalities of implementation are to be discussed with a UN team in early 2006.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions
  • S/RES/1650 (21 December 2005) extended ONUB until 1 July 2005 and authorised the sharing of troops between MONUC and ONUB.
  • S/RES/1606 (20 June 2005) requested the Secretary-General to start negotiations on transitional justice mechanisms in Burundi.
  • S/RES/1545 (21 May 2004) established ONUB.
Selected Secretary-General’s Reports
  • S/2005/728 (21 November 2005) proposed the phased withdrawal of ONUB.
  • S/2005/158 (11 March 2005) made recommendations on transitional justice mechanisms in Burundi.
  • S/2004/210 (16 March 2004) proposed the establishment of a UN peacekeeping mission.
Selected Letter
  • S/2005/736 (23 November 2005) contained Bujumbura’s position on the future of ONUB.

Historical Background

19 August 2005

Pierre Nkurunziza was elected president of Burundi.

28 February 2005

Referendum approved the Constitution of Burundi.

21 May 2004

Resolution 1545 created ONUB, which incorporated forces under the AU Mission in Burundi (AMIB).

November 2003

Forces under Nkurunziza joined the transition.

February 2003

AMIB was deployed.

December 2002

A ceasefire between the government and part of the rebels was signed.


The Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement was signed after years of regional mediation; the transitional government was established.


Pierre Buyoya regained the presidency after a coup.


Cyprien Ntaryamira was appointed president, but was killed two months after taking office.

November-December 1993

Between 30,000 and 50,000 people were killed in ethnic massacres.

October 1993

President Melchior Ndadaye was assassinated, initiating a wave of violence.

June 1993

Ndadaye was elected president after defeating incumbent Buyoya.

Other Relevant Facts

ONUB: Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Mission

Carolyn McAskie (Canada)

Force Commander

Major-General Derrick Mbuyiselo Mgwebi (South Africa)

Size and Composition of Mission
  • Total authorised strength: 5,650 military personnel, including 200 military observers.
  • Strength as of 28 February 2006: about 4,600 total uniformed personnel.
  • Key military contributors: Nepal, Pakistan and South Africa.
1 July 2005 – 30 June 2006: $307.69 million (gross)

June 2004 to present

Useful Additional Sources