December 2011 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 December 2011
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AFRICA

Burundi

Expected Council Action
In December, the Council is expecting a briefing on Burundi by the special representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Office in Burundi (BNUB), Karin Landgren. The chair of the Burundi configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), Swiss Permanent Representative Paul Seger, might also brief the Council. The briefing will be followed by consultations.

The Council is likely to renew the BNUB’s mandate, which expires on 31 December.

Key Recent Developments
On 17 May, Landgren and Seger briefed the Council. Landgren told the Council that the situation in the country remained generally calm and that new laws have been adopted on the functioning of political parties and also for non-parliamentary opposition parties. She reported that the government was preparing its second poverty-reduction strategy paper, which will incorporate elements of the strategic framework laid out by the PBC. But she also noted with concern continuing instances of extrajudicial killings, corruption and Burundi’s lack of self-sufficiency in food production caused by land erosion. Seger stated that the PBC’s engagement with Burundi will be undertaken within the anticipated poverty-reduction strategy paper produced by the Burundi government. In addition to socioeconomic issues, he listed corruption, human rights and transitional justice as other priorities.

In July, Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza announced that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) would be set up in early 2012 to probe decades of ethnic killings. He added that a special tribunal to prosecute offenders would subsequently be created as well. Both bodies are stipulated in the Arusha peace accords of 2000.

Attacks against civilians and soldiers have reportedly intensified since the June 2010 elections, widely boycotted by the opposition for alleged fraud (EU observers have reportedly said that the elections met international norms). The worst attack yet came on 18 September, when heavily armed gunmen wearing military uniforms stormed a bar in Gatumba, west of the capital Bujumbura, killing around 39 people and wounding others. Burundian officials say the attack was orchestrated by Agathon Rwasa, leader of the National Liberation Forces (FNL), believed to be hiding in the Democratic Republic of Congo since fleeing Burundi at the time of the elections. Up until now, the government had dismissed attacks as the work of “armed bandits”. Proceedings have commenced against 21 alleged perpetrators, who claim that police violated procedure while investigating the case. Following the defence’s charges of widespread police misconduct, the case was adjourned until 1 December.

On 7 November, President Nkurunziza replaced six of 21 ministers in a reshuffle of his cabinet, including the interior minister over his failure to stem a wave of deadly violence. According to media reports, all ministers had signed an agreement last February to achieve certain objectives, short of which they will lose their jobs. The opposition has asserted that these are cosmetic changes.

On 23 September, the Burundi configuration of the PBC held a high-level event on peacebuilding in Burundi. The Burundi foreign minister, Augustin Msanze—since replaced by Laurent Kavakure—stated that, although resolution 1959 officially transformed and downsized the UN political mission in Burundi, the changes on the ground must become more visible.

Developments in the Peacebuilding Commission
The PBC has been implementing the outcome document of the fifth and final review of the implementation of the Strategic Framework for Peacebuilding in Burundi, adopted on 21 April. The document identified peacebuilding challenges in the political and institutional sphere and in the socioeconomic sphere in which the commission can assist Burundi. The implementation of the outcome document was to coincide with the Burundi government’s new poverty-reduction strategy paper (PRSP II), which was to be completed last summer but has yet to be finalised.

During the high-level event on peacebuilding in Burundi on 23 September (held on the margins of the General Assembly’s sixty-sixth session), the Burundi foreign minister criticised what he viewed as the PBC’s overemphasis on the political sphere in its involvement in Burundi. He said that the PBC’s engagement with Burundi should focus on the socioeconomic sphere.  

The Burundi configuration paid a visit to Burundi from 31 October to 5 November, headed by Seger. While in Burundi, it met with both vice presidents, the foreign minister at the time and other ministers. After the visit in Burundi, it met with the current foreign minister, Kavakure, while in Kigali, Rwanda, attending a post-conflict peacebuilding conference.

The PBC plans to issue a report on the visit and a meeting within the Burundi configuration in the next couple of months. It may also try to organise a donor conference in Bujumbura in January 2012. Some of the PBC’s areas of focus in Burundi in the near future may include continued assistance for the reintegration programs for ex-combatants, along with other groups such as internally displaced people and unemployed youth, and assisting in broadening the donor base and developing new partnerships for Burundi.

 

Human Rights-Related Developments
On 30 September the Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted a resolution in which it welcomed the government’s creation of an independent human rights commission but was not ready to terminate the mandate of the independent human rights expert for that country, as had been proposed in the initial draft of the resolution. But the HRC urged the international community to increase its technical and financial assistance in support of Burundi’s efforts to promote and protect human rights.

Key Issues
A key issue is assessing the progress of the transformation of the UN Integrated Office in Burundi (BINUB) into BNUB and whether the new role for the UN in Burundi is suitable for the evolving situation in the country.

Another issue is how to encourage a political dialogue between the government and the opposition and strengthen good governance, human rights and the rule of law in the country.

Options
Options for the Council include:

  • renewing BNUB’s mandate for 12 months;
  • renewing BNUB’s mandate for a shorter period and asking the Secretary-General for  an assessment of progress achieved in Burundi (less likely);
  • encouraging the work of the PBC and requesting the PBC to continue to provide the Council with advice on peacebuilding issues; and
  • stressing the importance of political reconciliation if the peacebuilding process is to be successful in the long run.

Council Dynamics
Council members are expecting to receive the first report on BNUB and the recommendations therein, due by the end of November. Several members would like to have Seger participate in the Council’s closed consultations, in addition to his possible briefing. In recent years, the Council has used several formats, for example the informal interactive dialogues, to facilitate participation of non-members in Council non-public deliberations.

In recent years, Burundi has not been an issue on which Council members have diverged greatly. Council members generally view the security situation in Burundi as stable, while aware of its fragility due to the history of ethnic conflict. Much progress remains to be made on issues of rule of law, the abundance of small arms, extrajudicial killings, political persecution, corruption and property disputes, but Council members note the progress, albeit slow at times, that has been achieved in Burundi, including the successful presidential election of June 2010, the establishment of the independent human rights commission and promulgation of several key pieces of legislation.

Council members see the new configuration of BNUB as a transition phase. Several members are of the view that the slow progress in improving the political climate and enforcing the rule of law in the country does not support a downgrade in BNUB’s mandate or strength at present. Some countries emphasise the importance of taking into account the position of Burundi’s government and the need for benchmarks for BNUB’s eventual withdrawal.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolution

  • S/RES/1959 (16 December 2010) reconfigured BINUB into BNUB as of 1 January.

Security Council Meeting Record

  • S/PV.6538 (17 May 2011) was the briefing by Landgren and Ambassador Seger.

Latest Secretary-General’s Report

Other

  • PBC/5/BDI/L.1 (21 April 2011) was the outcome of the fifth review of the implementation of the Strategic Framework for Peacebuilding in Burundi.

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