May 2008 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 April 2008
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Expected Council Action
The Council expects to consider the Secretary-General’s semi-annual report on the UN Integrated Office in Burundi (BINUB). The mandate of BINUB does not expire until 31 December. However, because of the recent heavy fighting, the Council will be following the situation closely and a further statement is possible.

Recent Developments
Serious difficulties remain with respect to the Forces Nationales de Libération (Palipehutu-FNL) which withdrew last July from the Joint Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JVMM), established to monitor the comprehensive ceasefire agreement that it signed in September 2006 with the government. Clashes continued between Burundian government forces and FNL fighters, culminating in particularly troubling events during the weeks of 14 and 21 April, including an armed confrontation in the hills around Bujumbura in mid-April, when four soldiers and ten rebels were killed.

This wave of violence prompted an update on 24 April by the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) on the situation in the country. In a statement , the Council expressed concern at the confrontations between the FNL and the Burundian national forces, and condemned the use of violence. It urged the FNL to return immediately and without preconditions to the JVMM and called on both parties to resume their dialogue to overcome obstacles to the implementation of the ceasefire agreement and the conclusion of the peace process in Burundi. The Council further expressed “its intention to consider possible additional measures, as appropriate, in support of peace and stability in Burundi.”

The political situation also continues to be very tense, as the stalemate persists between the government and opposition in parliament, and there is a rift within the ruling party, Conseil national pour la défense de la democratie-Forces pour la défense de la democratie (CNDD-FDD). On 4 April Burundi’s Supreme Court sentenced the former chairman of the CNDD-FDD ruling party, Hussein Radjabu, to 13 years in prison for subversion. (Radjabu’s differences with President Pierre Nkurunzinza came to the fore at a special congress of the FDD in February 2007 where delegates ousted him as chairman. He was arrested in April 2007 and charged with plotting an armed insurrection and insulting President Nkurunziza.)

The standoff between the opposition and the ruling party in parliament continues, bringing work to a standstill. Opposition leaders have been targets of violent attacks. On 9 March simultaneous grenade attacks were launched on the homes of four parliamentarians who defected from the CNDD-FDD in Bujumbura, with no reported injuries. Three legislators, including Alice Nzomukunda, the former Vice-President of the National Assembly and sister of the jailed former ruling party leader Radjabu, were among a group of 46 opposition parliamentarians who wrote to the UN Secretary-General and BINUB in February requesting protection after receiving death threats and alleging a “death list” of 350 opposition members. (Although no formal response was given by the Secretary-General, he has issued a number of statements conveying concern about developments in the country. He apparently also expressed concern about the situation in Burundi during his monthly luncheon with Council members on 15 April and asked the Council to consider what could be done help resolve the situation.)

On 19 December 2007, the Council extended BINUB’s mandate until 31 December 2008. The resolution urged the FNL to return to the JVMM immediately and without preconditions and release all children associated with it. It also encouraged the Burundian government and FNL rebels to abide by the peace agreement and refrain from actions that would undermine its implementation. The Council urged the South African facilitation, the regional peace initiative, the AU, BINUB and other international partners to enhance efforts and find a closure to the peace process. The Council issued a similar call in a statement issued after a briefing on 28 November 2007 by the Facilitator of the Burundi Peace Process, Charles Nqakalu.

Related Developments in the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC)

On 27 November 2007, the PBC finalised its Monitoring and Tracking Mechanism (PBC/2/BDI/4) for the Strategic Framework for peacebuilding in Burundi, adopted in June 2007), signaling an entry into the phase of implementation of the peacebuilding priorities of the country. The first review of the Framework is scheduled for 25 June.

On 6 December 2007, the Chairman of the country-specific configuration of the PBC on Burundi, Norwegian Ambassador Johan Løvald, briefed the Security Council in private on the work of the PBC with regard to Burundi. He also visited Washington DC on 27 and 28 February to discuss the priorities of Burundi with the Bretton Woods institutions and the US government.

The PBC issued its second conclusions and recommendations on Burundi on 20 March. This highlighted peace process developments. The report noted that the UN, together with such groups as the Regional Peace Initiative and the AU, were working in tandem to assist in putting the Agreement into effect. It indicated that a new political directorate had been established in Bujumbura comprising representatives from the government, the FNL, the AU, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa and the EU, among others, with the objective of promoting dialogue on obstacles to implementing the Agreement. The PBC recommended that the government continue to explore all ways to resolve differences with leaders of the FNL.

A PBC field trip to Burundi scheduled for the week of 21 April, to follow up on the country’s peacebuilding priorities, was delayed at press time because of clashes between Burundian government forces and FNL elements in Bujumbura.

Key Issues
A key issue for the Council is whether Burundi—which looked like a possible success story ready to be passed to the PBC for intense post conflict peacebuilding—may have to be characterised as relapsing into conflict. A related issue is whether in fact the peacekeeping operation was actually withdrawn prematurely. The deadlock in implementing the ceasefire agreement between the Government and the FNL created by the suspension of the work of the JVMM is an immediate practical concern. Also the political stalemate in parliament, internal struggles within the ruling party and the perceived heavy-handedness of the government in dealing with opponents continue to pose problems in achieving benchmarks of BINUB’s mandate (including elements on peace consolidation, security sector reform and civilian disarmament, human rights and justice and socioeconomic development).

Another key issue in light of the above is how to enhance the complementary efforts by the Council and the PBC in more effective ways for dealing with the situation in the country.

Possible options for the Council include:

  • a resolution demanding that the FNL re-engage in the JVMM and with the government in political and other confidence-building incentives, and deciding on targeted sanctions measures that could be brought into force if the FNL leaders refuse to comply;
  • a statement addressing the mounting evidence of heavy handedness by the government, and applying leverage to steer it towards a more sustainable approach to the stalemate;
  • reopening the need for justice and accountability; and
  • requesting a joint meeting with the PBC and other international stakeholders to highlight the need to keep the peace process on track.

Council Dynamics
Council members are concerned about the deteriorating security and political situation in Burundi and appear to be ready to consider “additional measures.” While this has been taken to mean the possibility of sanctions against the recalcitrant FNL to curb the down-hill trend, members are yet to formally consider this option and await the Secretary-General’s report and developments in the country to inform subsequent action.

A tacit division of labour has developed between the Council and the PBC over the past 18 months under which the Council takes up its peace and security role (as illustrated by the latest Council statement) and the PBC pursues the wider peacebuilding agenda. It seems that recent events may lead the Council to take up Burundi more intensively, but many members will be more comfortable if it is done in harmony with the PBC.

France, South Africa and Belgium play a lead role on this issue.

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Underlying Problems
The major security problem stems from the fact that the FNL seems unpersuaded that the peace agreement is sustainable. It is unclear how much the government’s inability to manage cordial and productive relationships with the other opposition factions feeds into the underlying FNL sense of insecurity.

Fundamental peacebuilding needs also confront Burundi, including security sector reform and judicial reform, dire economic constraints, lack of basic social services and infrastructure difficulties. Human rights concerns and lack of accountability continue to loom large.

There are concerns that the sentencing of Radjaba could further deepen the political rifts. (He is believed to have the support of a third of MPs.) There is also potential for alienating the minority Muslim community, of which Radjaba is a leading member.

UN Documents

Selected Resolutions

  • S/RES/1791 (19 December 2007) extended the mandate of BINUB until 31 December 2008.
  • S/RES/1719 (25 October 2006) established BINUB.
  • S/RES/1606 (20 June 2005) requested the Secretary-General to start negotiations on transitional justice mechanisms in Burundi.

Selected Security Council Presidential Statement

  • S/PRST/2008/10 (24 April 2008) was the latest statement of the Council on the situation in Burundi.
  • S/PRST/2007/16 (30 May 2007) was a statement in which the Council welcomed the establishment of BINUB and called on parties to resolve outstanding issues in a spirit of cooperation.

Selected Secretary-General’s Report

  • S/2007/686 (28 November 2007) was the report on children and armed conflict in Burundi.
  • S/2007/682 (23 November 2007) was the latest report on BINUB.
  • S/2007/287 (17 May 2007) was the first BINUB report.

Other Selected Documents

  • PBC/2/BDI/7 (20 March 2008) was the PBC’s conclusions and recommendations on the situation in Burundi.
  • SC/9181 (28 November 2007) was the latest Council press statement on the situation in Burundi.
  • PBC/2/BDI/4 (27 November 2007) was the Monitoring and Tracking Mechanism of the Strategic Framework for Peacebuilding in Burundi.
  • SC/9056 (21 June 2007) was a Council press statement on the 17 June talks in Dar es Salaam between the president of Burundi and the leader of the rebel FNL.
  • PBC/1/BDI/2 (21 May 2007) was the report of the PBC mission to Burundi.

Other Relevant Facts

Executive Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of BINUB

Youssef Mahmoud (Tunisia)

Size and Composition of Mission (1 January 2007)

  • Proposed strength: 448 personnel (including 141 international civilians, 235 local civilians, four military observers, 11 police, 51 UN volunteers)
  • Strength as of October 2007: 399 personnel (including 116 international civilians, 217 local civilians, eight military observers, 12 police, 46 UN volunteers)


January 2007 to present; mandate expires 31 December

Recommended Budget

$33.1 million

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