Expected Council Action
In January 2015, the Council will receive the final report on the UN Office in Burundi (BNUB), whose mandate was extended by resolution 2137 for the last time—in line with Burundi’s wishes—until 31 December 2014.
The mission ended all operations on 12 December 2014. The Council may adopt a presidential statement marking the end of BNUB in January.
In addition, the Council may be briefed by the Special Representative and head of BNUB, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, and Paul Seger (Switzerland), the chair of the Burundi configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission.
Key Recent Developments
In resolution 2137, the Council asked the Secretary-General to prepare for BNUB’s transfer of responsibilities to the UN country team by 31 December 2014 and establish a UN Electoral Observation Mission (MENUB) as of 1 January 2015.
As BNUB ends, Burundi continues to experience political turmoil ahead of the legislative and presidential elections currently scheduled for May and August 2015, respectively. In the latest BNUB briefing on 5 November 2014, Onanga-Anyanga lamented the political tensions and called on Burundi to lift limitations on political participation. He also urged the country to ensure the protection of all stakeholders in the electoral process, guarantee the freedom and fairness of the elections and condemn, ban and end political violence in all its forms.
Onanga-Anyanga also called on the Council and UN member states to ensure that the new stand-alone office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), agreed to with Burundi, enjoys sufficient resources and support.
In terms of progress, he noted that incidents of political violence associated with the Imbonerakure, the youth group of the ruling party—the National Council for the Defence of Democracy-Forces for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD-FDD)—decreased in August and September. On the other hand, a sharp increase in attacks by unidentified armed groups was reported.
Seger noted that political tensions persist in the country both between the CNDD-FDD and the opposition and between the government and its international partners. He added that BNUB’s departure leaves a serious gap in the area of political dialogue.
The briefing was followed by consultations, after which the Council’s president for November 2014, Ambassador Gary Quinlan (Australia), conveyed “elements to the press” stating that Council members were monitoring the situation in Burundi and were looking forward to the establishment of MENUB. He added that Council members encouraged the government to create conditions for an inclusive electoral process and supported the understanding reached with the government on the continued presence of OHCHR.
On 4 December 2014, the Burundi parliament elected the members of the much-overdue Truth and Reconciliation Commission, whose establishment was stipulated in the Arusha Peace Accords of 2000. The vote was boycotted by the main Tutsi opposition party, Uprona.
The Independent National Electoral Commission concluded voter registration for the 2015 elections on 12 December 2014, with more than 3.5 million registering. Yet opposition parties claim the process was marked by fraud in favour of the CNDD-FDD, saying that false identity cards were being used. The Commission spokesperson, Prospère Ntahorwamiye, has admitted that “several irregularities” were witnessed, but that these did not invalidate the process.
Developments in the PBC
Seger visited Burundi from 8 to 12 December 2014 and met with foreign minister Laurent Kavakure and other political leaders, representatives of civil society organisations and international organisations. He conveyed to interlocutors in Burundi that the government must ensure the protection of all civil liberties, including the right to free assembly, speech and association, and must protect human rights advocates from harm and frivolous legal action regardless of political or ethnic affiliations. He stressed to opposition figures that, for their part, they must participate in the elections and not repeat mistakes from 2010.
A roundtable of Burundi and its partners, organised with the help of the PBC configuration, was held on 11-12 December 2014 in Bujumbura to take stock of the mutual commitments made at the Geneva Conference in October 2012; assess the implications of BNUB’s drawdown on the cooperation between Burundi and its partners; and, on the assumption that the 2015 elections will be peaceful, open, inclusive and fair, discuss future cooperation between Burundi and its partners.
At the end of the roundtable, a joint communiqué of renewed and redefined mutual commitments by Burundi and its international partners was adopted. The communiqué welcomed the progress achieved, identified outstanding challenges and defined a new set of mutual engagements. Burundi committed to promoting all civil liberties and the protection of human rights defenders, to intensifying accountability and to ensuring free, transparent, credible, inclusive and peaceful elections.
Human Rights-Related Developments
The special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, conducted his first visit to Burundi from 14 to 25 November 2014. In a press conference in Bujumbura on 25 November, Forst expressed regret that activists working to promote and protect human rights and civil liberties in Burundi are deemed to be political opponents. Human rights defenders and journalists reported a high number of physical threats, assaults, arbitrary arrests and judicial harassment. Forst added that freedom of assembly is also being curtailed, with only demonstrations in favour of the government reportedly authorised while all others are systematically prohibited.
On 28 November, the Committee against Torture published its concluding observations on the second periodic report on Burundi (CAT/C/BDI/CO/2). Concerns included allegations of torture and ill-treatment by law enforcement officials and prison officers, sub-standard conditions of detention, the lack of an independent body to monitor places of detention, high numbers in custody and pre-trial detention, political violence and the composition of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as an exclusively governmental body.
The special rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, Pablo de Greiff, visited Burundi for the first time from 8 to 16 December to assess the transitional justice efforts undertaken by the Burundian authorities and the ongoing process of establishing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. A final report on the visit will be presented to the Human Rights Council in September 2015.
The key issue is ensuring that, despite the withdrawal of BNUB, the security and political situation in Burundi does not deteriorate further given the history of ethnic violence between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups.
A related issue is monitoring MENUB and ensuring that the 2015 elections are free and fair, as well as the ability of the OHCHR representation to operate uninterrupted.
Should the political situation take a significant turn for the worse, an issue for the Council will be how to act quickly and effectively in order to preserve the progress achieved over the past decade and prevent the situation from developing into an acute crisis.
One option for the Council, to signal its continuing engagement with and concern about Burundi, is a Council mission to Burundi during the electoral period.
Another option is adopting a presidential statement that would:
- recognise progress achieved in Burundi;
- call on Burundi to ensure an open and inclusive political environment and encourage steps taken by Burundi to that effect;
- convey readiness to take necessary measures if the situation deteriorates after BNUB’s departure; and
- express its appreciation for the work of BNUB and Council’s support for the remaining UN presence in Burundi, including the facilitation of political dialogue by MENUB.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Several Council members, UN officials and civil society groups view the departure of BNUB as premature in light of the volatile political environment and the fragility of the security situation. Despite the closure of BNUB, several Council members believe that the Council should follow the situation in Burundi closely in particular during and after the electoral cycle of 2015 and that it should signal to Burundi that it has not lost its focus and willingness to react, if needed, to developments on the ground. Additionally, some Council members wish to see MENUB take a proactive mediating and reporting role in all election-related political activities from January 2015.
The penholder on Burundi is France.
|Security Council Resolutions|
|13 February 2014 S/RES/2137||This resolution extended the mandate of BNUB until 31 December 2014.|
|31 July 2014 S/2014/550||This was the Secretary-General’s report on BNUB.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|5 November 2014 S/PV.7295||This was a briefing on Burundi by Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, the head BNUB, and Paul Seger (Switzerland), the chair of the PBC Burundi configuration.|