Expected Council Action
In January, 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
In the context of the openly stated wishes of Burundi to see BNUB come to an end in February, a strategic assessment mission (SAM) visited Burundi from 4-10 November to assess the country’s progress. The mission was led by the Department of Political Affairs and included representatives from the Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Peacebuilding Support Office, the UN Development Program, the UN Refugee Agency and the UN Children’s Fund. The findings of the SAM were discussed in the UN Policy Committee on 17 December and will be included in the Secretary-General’s report on BNUB due by 17 January. (Resolution 2090, which renewed BNUB’s mandate, requested the Secretary-General to keep the Council informed on the benchmarks to asses Burundi’s progress towards the deployment of a UN country team rather than a political mission, the implementation of BNUB’s mandate and the outcome of the SAM in his next written report.)
It seems that the SAM found that the security situation in Burundi continued to remain stable, with a further drop in extra-judicial killings compared to 2012, especially with regard to politically motivated killings, and the expansion of the work of the National Commission of Human Rights.
At the same time, the mission found that Burundi is regressing in other respects. Accountability for extra-judicial killings is still absent. There were serious concerns regarding the disappearance of political space and basic freedoms that allow for the opposition and civil society to operate. This is the result of various laws that have resulted in restrictions on and tight supervision of the media and NGOs and limitations on the right to assembly. Another element of this is the continuing intimidation by the youth wing of the ruling party, Imbonerakure, of those who do not share their views. The Imbonerakure act with impunity.
Many observers, including BNUB and the PBC, fear that other bills proposed by the government will further restrict the ability of the opposition to participate in the political sphere. Of greatest concern is the intention to amend the constitution, as the government has already initiated this process, asserting that the constitution is in need of serious revision.
Enacted in 2005, the constitution enshrines the principles of the 2000 Arusha Accords, including ethnic power-sharing arrangements and checks on majority rule. Some central suggested amendments include:
- allowing the president to be re-elected more than once;
- eliminating mechanisms to legally remove the president from power;
- creating the new position of prime minster with extensive authority;
- changing some elements of the ethnic balance in the composition of the government; and
- reducing requirements for a 75 percent majority for adopting ordinary laws and resolutions in the National Assembly.
Opposition parties, civil society and BNUB have all called on the government not to change the constitution without a comprehensive national dialogue and view this exercise as an attempt by the government to cement its control and further limit the political sphere. While noting that the president of the National Assembly has expressed his willingness to hold a short dialogue with political parties and civil society about the amendments, BNUB has warned that a total revision of the constitution warrants a long consultative process.
In addition, the transitional justice mechanisms foreseen by the Arusha Accords have yet to materialise. These include the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission and an international criminal tribunal.
In light of these developments, the conclusions of the SAM seem to be that BNUB should stay in Burundi until after the June 2015 elections. At the same time, the government has openly stated that it wishes to see BNUB come to an end in February. It views BNUB as a signal to private foreign investors that the country is unstable and therefore as an impediment to progress.
Onanga-Anyanga and Seger last briefed the Council on 22 July 2013 (S/PV.7006). Ambassador Herménégilde Niyonzima (Burundi) also participated. Prior to the last mandate renewal, Burundi had initially signalled that it wanted BNUB to be converted to a UN country team. 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.
Developments in the PBC
Seger paid a brief visit to Bujumbura on 28-30 October on the occasion of a conference following up on the Geneva donor meeting of 29-30 October 2012.
The steering group of the Burundi PBC configuration met on 12 November, during which Seger conveyed his impressions. He reiterated his view that a UN political presence in Burundi remained crucial and that without it, the PBC would probably have to end its engagement with Burundi. The extension of a UN political presence would allow for the continued work of the PBC, which the government has said it favours, at least until after elections.
The Burundi configuration held an informal meeting on 16 December with a specific focus on the constitutional review process.
Seger is scheduled to pay another visit to Burundi in January before the Council meeting on Burundi.
A key issue is assessing Burundi’s progress in achieving the benchmarks and balancing the need for BNUB to remain with accommodating the wishes of the government.
A further issue is addressing the role of the PBC in Burundi, especially if BNUB is significantly scaled down.
Options for the Council regarding BNUB prior to its expiry on 15 February include:
- renewing its mandate as it stands;
- renewing its mandate until after the June 2015 elections;
- scaling down its size and mandate to focus on particular issues, such as election preparations and related institutions;
- replacing it with a scaled-down political mission; or
- not renewing BNUB altogether.
It appears that the Burundi is now quite determined to see BNUB terminated or at least replaced with a substantially scaled-down mission.
Several Council members are of the opinion that a political mission is still needed and that in order to ensure future progress in Burundi, BNUB should remain until the conclusion of a successful electoral process in 2015.
Yet it is clear to all Council members that BNUB requires host government consent, as a matter of law since it is a Chapter VI political mission. In practical terms, BNUB will not be able to implement its mandate without official cooperation. At the same time, there seems to be little appetite among Council members to mandate a Chapter VII operation in Burundi, as the security situation does not justify this.
Council members will be interested in hearing from Onanga-Anyanga about the conclusions of the SAM and his assessment of Burundi’s progress in achieving the benchmarks. They will also be interested to hear about his discussions with the government on the continued presence of BNUB or a new political mission to replace it with a modified mandate until after the conclusion of the elections.
The penholder on Burundi is France.
UN Documents on Burundi
|Security Council Resolution|
|13 February 2013 S/RES/2090||This was a resolution extending the mandate of BNUB until 15 February 2014.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|22 July 2013 S/PV.7006||This was a briefing on Burundi by Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of BNUB, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, and the head of the Peacebuilding Commission’s Burundi configuration, Ambassador Paul Seger (Switzerland).|
|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 Letter|
|10 May 2012 S/2012/310||This letter contained benchmarks and indicators for the future evolution of BNUB.|