February 2014 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 January 2014
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AFRICA

Burundi

Expected Council Action

The mandate of the UN Office in Burundi (BNUB) expires on 15 February and at press time it seems unlikely—though not out of the question—that it would be renewed. If BNUB is not renewed, the Council may adopt a presidential statement on the situation in Burundi and the termination of BNUB.

Key Recent Developments

In accordance with resolution 2090, which last renewed BNUB, a strategic assessment mission (SAM) visited Burundi from 4-10 November to assess the country’s progress. The conclusions of the SAM were included in the Secretary-General’s report on BNUB (S/2014/36). The SAM concluded that the security situation in Burundi remained stable, but in light of the political and institutional challenges in the country, and human rights concerns, BNUB should remain until after the June 2015 general elections (for more on the SAM and the political situation in the country, see our January 2014 Monthly Forecast).

However, Burundi had openly stated that it wished to see BNUB terminated because it viewed BNUB as a signal to private foreign investors that the country was unstable. In light of this position, the SAM offered two less preferred options, the first being a scaled down political mission and the second, as a last resort, the appointment of a special envoy to promote and facilitate dialogue between national actors and coordinate international efforts to ensure a conducive, free and fair environment for the 2015 elections.

Against this background, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of BNUB, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, held talks with the government to try to reach an agreement regarding a continued UN political presence in the country.

While several scenarios were discussed, one compromise that seemed to be agreeable was a smaller political mission with a focus on specific issues, such as electoral assistance, that would remain in the country until after the June 2015 elections. In a 26 December letter to President Pierre Nkurunziza, the Secretary-General suggested a UN political mission on those terms. However, on 31 December, Nkurunziza informed the Secretary-General that Burundi rejected this proposal.

On 17 January, Burundi forwarded a 15 January letter from Foreign Minister Laurent Kavakure which unequivocally stated that Burundi wished BNUB to expire and, furthermore, that Onanga-Anyanga should ensure that BNUB concluded all operations within six months of its termination date.  

Onanga-Anyanga and Ambassador Paul Seger (Switzerland), the chair of the Burundi configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) briefed the Council on BNUB on 28 January (S/PV.7104). Onanga-Anyanga told the Council that the recommendation to extend the political presence in Burundi is based on the evaluation of peacebuilding benchmarks, and took into account the fact that a country team would not be able to absorb the mission’s tasks at the present time. The Burundi foreign minister also addressed the Council, stating that the UN country team can provide support for the June 2015 elections and so there is no justification to extend BNUB’s mandate.

Controversy continued over the government’s intention to amend the constitution, possibly before the elections. Enacted in 2005, the constitution enshrines the principles of the 2000 Arusha Accords, including ethnic power-sharing arrangements between the Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority and checks on majority rule.

A related issue is the recent indication that Nkurunziza, who is currently serving a second term, intends to run for re-election in 2015 although the constitution only allows two five-year terms. However, supporters claim that since he was elected by the National Assembly in 2005 and not by universal suffrage, he may run for another term in 2015. Others do not accept this interpretation of the constitution. There is no suggestion that the constitution be amended regarding allowable presidential terms, but some fear that the strengthened powers of the prime minister the constitutional amendments favoured by the government are aimed at ensuring that if Nkurunziza cannot be re-elected as president, he can retain influence as a future prime minister.

Developments in the PBC

Seger visited Burundi from 13-17 January to assess peacebuilding efforts in the country. Prior to the visit, he was informed that, as opposed to past practice, interaction with the government would be limited to two meetings with the foreign minister and the second vice president, reflecting the politically limited role the government wishes the PBC to play, although it is still of the position that the Configuration should operate till after the elections.

During the visit, Seger additionally met with other political and civil society actors to discuss such issues as the need for a continued BNUB presence, the follow-up to the Geneva donor conference held on 29-30 October 2012, economic development, and the revision of the constitution and other concerning acts of legislation, such as the press law and the new land law. After meeting with the second vice president, Seger stated that if Burundi wishes BNUB to expire, it should not seek to do so immediately but rather as a process. 

Key Issues
As Burundi has clearly stated its desire for BNUB to depart imminently, a key issue is evaluating thoroughly Burundi’s progress in achieving the benchmarks for the future evolution of BNUB into a UN country team.

A further issue is addressing the role of the PBC in Burundi, especially if BNUB is significantly scaled down or terminated.

Options
Options for the Council regarding BNUB include:

  • 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;
  • appointing a special envoy to Burundi or calling on the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region, Mary Robinson, to play a greater role in political dialogue in the country; or
  • terminating BNUB altogether.

If BNUB is not renewed, the Council may adopt a presidential statement addressing the timeframe for its closure, the progress achieved in Burundi over the years, the challenges remaining and the concerns of Council members about possible developments that might lead to a deterioration of the situation in the country.

Council Dynamics
At press time, it appeared that Burundi was quite determined to see BNUB terminated, and attempts to broker a meaningful UN political presence in the country had not been fruitful.

Several Council members, such as France, Luxembourg and the UK, 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. In line with this view, they have sought to persuade Burundi to change its position, with no success thus far. However, some Council members, such as China and Russia, stress that the wishes of Burundi regarding BNUB are to be respected.

All Council members are nevertheless cognisant that BNUB requires the consent of the host government as a matter of law since it is a Chapter VI political mission. In addition, BNUB would not be able to implement its mandate without official cooperation.

If the mandate is not renewed, several Council members will be inclined to issue a presidential statement commending the progress achieved in Burundi in the past 20 years while highlighting the remaining political challenges and concerns, and possible regression in the security situation if those are not addressed. In addition, they will seek to apply pressure on Burundi to accept that BNUB’s drawdown period be extended beyond six months.

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
28 January 2014 S/PV.7104 This was the latest briefing by Onanga-Anyanga and Seger.
Secretary-General’s Report
20 January 2014 S/2014/36 This was on the SAM assessment of progress towards achieving the benchmarks.