Expected Council Action
In July, the Council will be briefed by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Office in Burundi (BNUB), Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, and Ambassador Paul Seger (Switzerland), the chair of the Burundi configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC). The briefing will be followed by consultations.
BNUB’s mandate expires on 15 February 2014.
Key Recent Developments
Onanga-Anyanga briefed the Council on 24 January on developments in Burundi and the Secretary-General’s latest report on BNUB, which analysed progress regarding the benchmarks for the future evolution of BNUB into a country team (S/2013/36). (The benchmarks and indicators concerned the areas of security and stability, democratic process, transitional justice, governance and institution-building, rule of law, human rights, regional integration and social and economic development.) The report noted that overall the security situation remains stable. It expressed concern, however, over the violent activities of some in the youth league of the ruling party, aimed at intimidation and repression of certain populations and stressed the need for greater emphasis on justice and ending impunity. Albert Shingiro, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, told the Council that BNUB should be converted into a UN country team in 12 months. The briefing was followed by consultations.
On 13 February, the Council adopted resolution 2090, extending the mandate of BNUB until 15 February 2014 (S/PV.6918). The Council requested the Secretary-General to provide a briefing by the end of July and a report by 17 January 2014 on the implementation of BNUB’s mandate. The resolution called on Burundi to take further steps necessary to prevent human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, mistreatment of detainees and torture, restrictions on civil liberties and limitations on the freedom of press.
Violent incidents have persisted. The youth league has continued to interfere with the political activities of opposition parties with impunity. On 12 March, police killed seven worshippers in clashes with more than 100 followers of an offshoot sect of Roman-Catholicism, banned by Burundi. On 18 May, members of the National Liberation Forces, a former rebel group, killed two people and injured ten.
On 5 June, the Secretary-General expressed regret that a new media law was promulgated the day before with provisions that may negatively affect freedom of the press in Burundi. Of particular concern are articles that force journalists to reveal their sources and grant the government broad powers and discretion to censor publications on a wide range of issues, including public safety, the head of state and stories that may undermine the “honour of Burundi”.
Developments in the Peacebuilding Commission
The PBC Burundi configuration met on 6 June, with Burundi’s Second Vice-President Gervais Rufyikri participating. Several members of the configuration expressed concern over the new media law and called particular attention to other bills being considered such as on justice and reconciliation and on freedom of association. They feared the media law might jeopardise progress achieved in Burundi thus far. Rufyikri responded that Burundi would continue to protect freedom of expression and of the press.
At press time, Seger was to visit Burundi on 24-28 June. The issues he will focus on include the new media law and other draft laws, the 2015 elections, and support for the continued engagement of BNUB and the PBC with Burundi until after the elections.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 6 June, the Human Rights Council adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Burundi. Burundi rejected 39 of the 176 recommendations it had received, including recommendations regarding freedom of assembly and the role of the press, arguing in the latter case that the press needed to be regulated.
On 7 June, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed regret over the promulgation of the new media law.
A key issue is assessing Burundi’s progress in achieving the benchmarks and the possible ramifications for BNUB’s mandate when it comes up for renewal next February.
A related issue is hearing Onanga-Anyanga’s assessment of the political and economic situation and on electoral preparations.
A further issue is addressing the role of the PBC in relation to the benchmarks.
Options for the Council include:
- adopting a press statement acknowledging progress made towards an inclusive election process, emphasising support for the continuing roles of BNUB and the PBC and expressing concern over continuing human rights violations and violence; or
- taking no action at this time.
Prior to the last mandate renewal, Burundi initially signalled that it wanted BNUB to be converted to a UN country team in February. It later reconsidered and conveyed its wishes to see BNUB’s drawdown take place in 2014, possibly understanding that it requires more political assistance and reflecting its interest in receiving continued social and economic development assistance from BNUB.
Several Council members are of the opinion that in order to ensure future progress in Burundi, BNUB should remain on the ground until the conclusion of a successful electoral process in 2015. Some Council members, however, emphasise the government’s position on BNUB’s future as the most important factor. A recent request from Burundi that BNUB deploy an electoral assessment mission may be an indication that Burundi is interested to prolong BNUB’s presence until after the elections.
As the Council will only be briefed orally, Council members will be interested in hearing about progress in achieving the benchmarks, and possible shifts in Burundi’s position regarding the future of BNUB. Other areas of interest are political developments, including the preparations for elections, which were boycotted by the opposition in 2010, and the implications of the media law and other prospective legislative bills. Some Council members will also be interested in the human rights situation because of reports of persistent violence.
The penholder on Burundi is France.
UN DOCUMENTS ON BURUNDI
|Security Council Resolutions|
|13 February 2013 S/RES/2090||This was a resolution extending the mandate of BNUB until 15 February 2014.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|13 February 2013 S/PV.6918||This was a meeting record which led to the approval of resolution 2090 of 13 February 2013.|
|24 January 2013 S/PV.6909||This was the first briefing by Special Representative Parfait Onanga-Anyanga on the BNUB report, and by Paul Seger (Switzerland), chair of the PBC country configuration for Burundi.|
|18 January 2013 S/2013/36||This report of the Secretary-General analyses Burundi’s progress towards achieving benchmarks for the future evolution of BNUB into a country team.|
|Security Council Letters|
|10 May 2012 S/2012/310||This letter contained benchmarks and indicators for the future evolution of BNUB.|