December 2008 Monthly Forecast

Posted 26 November 2008
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Expected Council Action

In December the Council is expected to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Integrated Office in Burundi (BINUB), which expires on 31 December 2008. If negotiations between the Burundi government and the rebel Palipehutu-FNL (Palipehutu-Forces nationales de libération) are still deadlocked in December, the Council may also discuss ways of moving the process forward bearing in mind the 31 December deadline for completion of the peace process.

Key Recent Developments
Following the outbreak of violence in late April and early May, a ceasefire was signed on 25 May. The 11 June Magaliesburg agreement signed by the Burundian government and the Palipehutu-FNL agreed that both sides would:

  • renounce violence and resolve all differences by dialogue;
  • respect timelines outlined in the Revised Programme of Action, a regional roadmap of sequenced steps for implementing the 2006 Comprehensive Ceasefire Agreement (CCA) ;and
  • conclude the peace process by the end of 2008.

Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza and the Palipehutu-FNL leader Agathon Rwasa met with the peace talk’s facilitator Charles Nqakula on 18 August, and the two parties signed an accord agreeing to:

  • speed up implementation of the 2006 Agreement of Principles and the CCA;
  • release political prisoners and prisoners of war; and
  • address Palipehutu-FNL’s transformation into a political party including the question of its name (the Burundi government maintains that as “Palipehutu” means party for the liberation of Hutu people its inclusion in a political party’s name would be against the intent of the constitution, which forbids ethnic-based political entities).

On 26 August the Council issued a press statement welcoming the 18 August agreement to dismantle roadblocks to the revised ceasefire agreements signed in June. It also:

  • urged parties to implement the CCA according to the agreed timeline and in line with mutual commitments;
  • called upon parties to demonstrate flexibility in overcoming obstacles hindering implementation of the CCA; and
  • encouraged the Palipehutu-FNL to work with the Joint Verification and Monitoring Mechanism, which was set up in 2006 to oversee the implementation of the CCA.

By October implementation had reached an impasse. Nqakula met with Nkurunziza and Rwasa on 20 October. In Kampala, Nqakula then briefed leaders of the Regional Peace Initiative for Burundi (composed of Uganda, South Africa and Tanzania.)

At the request of the Regional Initiative, he returned to Burundi on 6 November with the Tanzanian and Ugandan foreign ministers and presented a new proposal asking the Palipehutu-FNL to drop “Palipehutu” from its name. Unless the name is changed, the government will not agree to register it as a political party. The Palipehutu-PNL rejected the proposal. Nqakula asked the two parties to conclude the peace process by the end of the year or forego international mediation. South Africa’s facilitation mandate ends on 31 December and it seems reluctant to agree to a renewal.

On 4 November Alexis Sinduhije, a well-known journalist and opposition leader, was arrested, together with thirty other members of his party. Sinduhije leads the Movement for Security and Democracy (MSD) and founded Radio Publique Africaine. He and his fellow party members were arrested for allegedly attempting to overthrow the government, holding illegal MSD meetings, and sending Tutsi youth to join rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Sinduhije claims he has been arrested to prevent his participation in the 2010 presidential elections. The EU condemned the arrests and warned that the action violated terms of EU aid to Burundi. The US called the arrests unacceptable.

On 23 October a Burundian military tribunal convicted 15 soldiers for the massacre of 31 civilians in Muyinga province in 2006. NGOs see this as an important step to promote justice and accountability.

Related Developments in the Peacebuilding Commission

On 26 August, Sweden briefed the Council as Chair of the Burundi Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission and indicated that while there had been several positive developments, the peace process faced significant challenges requiring coordinated and robust international and regional support.

Sweden’s ambassador to the UN, Anders Lidén, visited Burundi in October. This was his first visit since Sweden took over the chair of the PBC Country Specific Configuration for Burundi in July 2008.

One option is for the Council is to extend BINUB for a year with no change in its mandate.

Another option is a shorter, six-month extension to apply pressure on the parties to fully implement the CCA without further delay.

If the deadlock in the peace process continues, an option could be to begin discussions about a presidential statement for early January, possibly hinting at stronger action, including the threat of measures such as sanctions if agreement is not reached within a defined period. Alternatively Council members could make a point of emphasising these possibilities in debate when the BINUB mandate is extended.

Similarly, when the BINUB debate is held another option is a series of statements signaling concern with the arrest of Sinduhije, and calling on the government to respect the civil and political rights of the country’s citizens within the context of the good governance framework that the international community expects in Burundi.

Key Issues
A key issue is the whether the Council should now play a bigger role to ensure that the peace process does not unravel, given the potential for return to open hostilities if negotiations fail and the need to provide back-up to the efforts of the PBC.

Another issue is the risk of a return to ethnic-based politics in Burundi’s already fragile political arena if Palipehutu-FNL does not fundamentally move away from its ethnic-based beliefs. A significant issue is whether the arrest of Sinduhije is another step leading to greater restrictions on Burundians’ civil and political rights.

An issue that comes under the PBC but also impacts security is the slow pace of demobilisation. The Council may be concerned that with deteriorating living conditions soldiers may rebel.

A future issue is whether Palipehutu-FNL will disrupt the elections and destabilise the security situation if it is not registered as a political party.

Council and Wider Dynamics
Members realise that the situation in Burundi has not only made little progress in recent months but has possibly deteriorated. However, with members focusing on the situation in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, there appears to be little appetite to initiate action to pressure the two parties in Burundi. Most are relying on the Secretary-General’s report to shape their decisions on BINUB’s future mandate.

France as the lead country is preparing the BINUB resolution. South Africa and Belgium, which have played an active role on Burundi, leave the Council at the end of the year. It is unclear to what extent new members will want to play a role on this issue.

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.

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/2008/330 (15 May 2008) was the latest report on BINUB.
  • S/2007/287 (17 May 2007) was the first BINUB report.

Other Selected Documents

  • SC/9434 (26 August 2008) was a Council press statement.
  • S/PV.5966 (26 August 2008) was the Council briefing by the Executive Representative of the Secretary-General for Burundi, Youssef Mahmoud; the Chair of the PBC country specific configuration on Burundi, Ambassador Anders Lidén of Sweden; and Ambassador Augustin Nsanze of Burundi
  • PBC/2/BDI/10 (23 June 2008) was the review of the progress report in the implementation of the Strategic Framework for Peacebuilding in Burundi
  • PBC/2/BDI/9 (23 June 2008) was the recommendation of the biannual review of the implementation of the Strategic Framework for Peacebuilding in Burundi.
  • PBC/2/BDI/7 (20 March 2008) was the PBC’s conclusions and recommendations on the situation in 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 and 51 UN volunteers)
  • Strength as of 30 September 2008: 410 personnel (including 117 international civilians, 229 local civilians, eight military observers, nine police and 47 UN volunteers)


January 2007 to present; mandate expires 31 December

Recommended Budget

$33.1 million

Full forecast