Expected Council Action
The Council may possibly hold consultations to discuss the political and security situation in Burundi. African members seem increasingly uncomfortable with the “hands off” approach of recent months. Possible formal action includes a presidential or press statement. The mandate of the UN Integrated Office in Burundi (BINUB) expires on 1 January 2008.
Key Recent Developments
The overall political and security situation in the country has remained tense as a result of the stalemate in the implementation of the comprehensive ceasefire agreement between the government and the Forces nationales de libération (Palipehutu-FNL), as well as political wrangling within the ruling party, Conseil national pour la défense de la democratie-Forces pour la défense de la democratie (CNDD-FDD).
The Council gave Burundi a considerable amount of attention in May. On 21 May it held a private debate on the situation in the country attended by the representatives of Burundi and Norway, the latter in its capacity as chair of the Peacebuilding Commission’s (PBC) country-specific configuration on Burundi. This meeting was followed by a briefing in private consultations by the Secretary-General’s Executive Representative Youssef Mahmoud on the first report of the Secretary-General on BINUB. On 30 May, the Council adopted a presidential statement welcoming the establishment of BINUB and the support it provides to the peace consolidation process. It also called on parties to endeavour to resolve outstanding issues in a spirit of cooperation and urged the government to intensify its efforts in regard to security sector reforms and address the issue of impunity and promote and protect human rights. It further called upon the Burundian government, UN agencies and donor governments to cooperate with the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict in following up on its conclusions on parties to the armed conflict in Burundi.
Some progress was achieved on the issue of accountability for past abuses. During a May visit by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, the Burundian government agreed to the creation of a truth and reconciliation commission along with a tribunal to try people who committed atrocities during the civil war. The commission and the tribunal are expected to be set up after national consultations to be spearheaded by a panel comprising members drawn from the government, the UN and civil society groups. On 31 May, Arbour briefed the Council on her trip to Burundi and other countries in the Great Lakes region.
Initial gains made in the bid to find a settlement on the implementation of the peace deal between the government and FNL, the only active rebel movement in the country, have eroded. On 17 June, talks were held between the president of Burundi and the leader of the FNL in Dar es Salaam in an attempt to break the deadlock concerning the implementation of last year’s comprehensive peace agreement. As part of the outcome of the meeting, agreement was reached on the release of prisoners.
In a 21 June press statement, the Council welcomed the resumption of talks and the agreement reached by the parties and expressed confidence that the agreement will be implemented in the framework of the Joint Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JVMM), which is a joint team monitoring the ceasefire between the government and the FNL rebels. The FNL has, however, since withdrawn from the JVMM. A spokesperson for the rebel movement is reported to have cited security concerns as the reason for its delegation’s withdrawal from the mechanism. The FNL has, among other things, been demanding negotiations on the modalities of its inclusion in national institutions before disarming and demobilising its fighters.
Peacebuilding Commission Developments
A PBC delegation visited Burundi from 11 to 14 April. The visit was to afford the Commission a first-hand understanding of the challenges facing the peace consolidation effort in the country and to deliberate on the outline of a strategic framework for peace consolidation to be adopted by the Burundian government and the Commission.
On 30 May, Arbour briefed the PBC for the first time on the country-specific issue of Burundi. The briefing included highlights on the prevailing issues of impunity in the country, human rights and the understanding reached with the government on the creation of a truth and reconciliation commission.
On 20 June, the PBC endorsed the Strategic Framework for Peacebuilding in Burundi. The Framework seeks the development of an integrated peacebuilding strategy to guide engagement and dialogue between Burundi, the UN and other international partners to secure lasting peace and sustainable development. It was derived from the Priority Action Programme prepared by the government of Burundi in consultation with its partners which was presented at a round-table held in Bujumbura in May. The Framework highlights major goals, pertinent challenges and threats to peace in the country, including implementation of the ceasefire agreement between Burundi and the FNL.
On 13 August, an informal consultation of the Burundi configuration of the PBC was convened to discuss the deteriorating political situation in the country. The Norwegian chair of the meeting (which was video-linked to Bujumbura to facilitate the participation of the Secretary-General’s executive representative, the AU special envoy, the IMF country representative and other relevant actors on the ground facilitating the peace process) proposed to send a small PBC fact-finding mission to the country. The mission is expected to take place in early September.
A key issue for the Council is how to maintain a careful balance in closely following developments in the country, while in the first instance allowing the PBC to address issues. Another issue relates to closely monitoring the benchmarks of BINUB’s mandate, as set out in the 14 August 2006 addendum to the Secretary General’s June 2006 report on the UN Operation in Burundi (ONUB). The benchmarks span the areas of peace consolidation and democratic governance, security sector reform and civilian disarmament, human rights and justice, information and communications, and reconstruction and socioeconomic development.
France and Belgium, with strong collaboration from the African group in the Council, have taken the lead on Burundi and are likely to call for prompt Council action through a possible presidential statement conveying concerns if the security situation deteriorates further.
As for the appropriate balance vis-à-vis the PBC, there is general agreement among members on the need to leave space for the PBC to play its complementary role in addressing relevant issues. However, the African members seem to be increasing concerned about the Council’s initial hands-off approach which appears to be wearing thin in light of the tense situation in the country.
The Council’s options include:
requesting a briefing by the UN Department of Political Affairs or the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations on the situation in the country;
awaiting the upcoming report of the Secretary-General to inform its next line of action;
urging the FNL, either by a resolution, a presidential statement or a press statement to re-engage in the JVMM and with the government in political and other confidence-building incentives, as part of the wider strategy to end the impasse and consolidate peace in Burundi; and
utilising the report of the PBC fact-finding mission to inform its deliberations.
The continual refusal of the FNL to join the ceasefire monitoring team constitutes the chief underlying problem. Burundi is also faced with formidable resettlement and reintegration challenges relating to former combatants, as well as fundamental peacebuilding issues such as security sector reform, human rights and judicial reform, economic issues, basic social services and infrastructure difficulties.
|Selected Security Council Presidential Statement|
|Selected Secretary-General’s Report|
|Other Selected Documents|
Other Relevant Facts
|Executive Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of BINUB|
|Youssef Mahmoud (Tunisia)|
|Size and Composition of Mission (1 January 2007)|
|January 2007 to present; mandate expires 1 January 2008|
|US $33.1 million|
Useful Additional Sources
Burundi: Finalising Peace with the FNL, International Crisis Group, Africa Report No. 131, 28 August 2007