July 2015 Monthly Forecast



Expected Council Action
Burundi is likely to be watched closely by the Council during July. A briefing by High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has been scheduled and the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs is also expected to brief. Ambassador Paul Seger (Switzerland), the chair of the Burundi configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), may also brief the Council.
Key Recent Developments
Council members met six times to discuss the situation in the country after incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza’s 25 April announcement that he would run in the presidential election. During this period, they received 16 communications from the Burundian government. The constitutionality of Nkurunziza’s running for a third term has been widely questioned. During the Council’s visit to Burundi on 13 March, several Council members stressed to Nkurunziza that a third term would be very divisive and a risk to Burundi’s stability.

Violence has indeed prevailed in Burundi since late April. According to the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons, a Burundi-based group, at least 77 civilians have been killed in clashes with security forces, over 1,000 people have been arrested and dozens of prisoners tortured. Burundi police, who have also suffered casualties, have denied torture allegations. The crisis has resulted in some 100,000 Burundians fleeing to neighbouring countries. There have been reports of reprisals against the protestors by the Imbonerakure, the youth wing of Burundi’s ruling party, which the government has been accused of arming. A failed 13 May coup attempt by Burundi’s former head of intelligence Major-General Godefroid Niyombare, sacked in February for his opposition to Nkurunziza’s third term, has added to the tensions in the country, as have the fleeing of several high-level officials.

Council members were last briefed about Burundi on 4 June by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Great Lakes, Said Djinnit, and by Adama Dieng, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide. Djinnit updated Council members on the East African Community (EAC) emergency summit on Burundi on 31 May in Dar es Salaam. A communiqué issued after the meeting called for a postponement of the elections for 45 days. (In response, Burundi announced a new electoral calendar, with parliamentary and local elections scheduled for 29 June, presidential elections for 15 July and senatorial elections on 24 July. Burundi informed the Council in a letter on 16 June that it will not postpone the elections further.) Dieng briefed on his recent visit to the country, and warned that violence may escalate into an ethnic conflict.

Council members released a press statement that day taking note of the EAC communiqué and calling on all Burundian parties to reach agreement on a new electoral calendar; urging protection of civil and human rights, respect for the rule of law, and urgent disarmament of all armed youth groups allied to political parties.

On 11 June, Djinnit stepped down as UN mediator after several opposition parties requested his removal, alleging that he was biased. The head of the UN Office for Central Africa, Abdoulaye Bathily, has succeeded him. On 22 June, Bathily briefed the Security Council’s Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa when it discussed the prospects of mitigating pre- and post-electoral challenges in Africa. He said, in the case of Burundi, the EAC is best placed to provide support. 

On 13 June, the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) issued a communiqué in support of the EAC efforts. It called for the date of the election to be set by consensus between the Burundian parties and based on a technical assessment undertaken by the UN. The AU also decided to deploy human rights observers and military experts to verify the process of disarming the militias and other armed groups. In addition it indicated its willingness to take measures against those perpetuating violence and impeding a political solution, and explicitly asked the Security Council to endorse the communiqué. 

On 26 June, the Secretary-General also called for the postponement of the elections, after the opposition announced a boycott of the polls, in order to create an environment conducive for inclusive elections. On the same day, a joint international facilitation team comprising the EAC, International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, the AU and the UN proposed that the various elections be held simultaneously on 30 July. The AU has announced it will not observe the 29 June parliamentary and municipal polls.

In response to the AU communiqué, on 21 June, France circulated a draft presidential statement taking note of the conclusions in the AU communiqué. The draft expressed a concern shared with the EAC and AU that the political dialogue has not produced the expected results and that conditions are currently not conducive for holding elections. Like the AU communiqué, the draft statement emphasised that the Burundian political parties should all agree on the date of the election. It further stressed that the Burundian dialogue should address concerns over the protection of civil and human rights, including the freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, release of detainees, respect for the rule of law and disarmament of youth groups, prior to the elections.

However, Russia, supported by China, did not want to mention the lack of success in the political dialogue or to state that conditions for elections have yet to be met. Significantly, Russia suggested that there is no room for further delays and for a new schedule to be adopted by consensus. In essence, their position entailed noting the AU and EAC statements but not adopting them as the Council’s own position. The African members were also opposed to the text as they see a consensus-based election date as an infringement of the Burundian constitutional order (notwithstanding that both Chad and Nigeria are currently members of the AU PSC).

The presidential statement was eventually adopted on 26 June, calling on the parties to participate in inclusive dialogue in the “spirit of the Arusha Agreements, and the Constitution” on what is needed to create conducive conditions for the elections.

Developments in the PBC
The Burundi configuration has been following the situation in the country closely, meeting five times since late April. On 5 June, the configuration released a press statement expressing its full support for Djinnit and calling on the opposition to reconsider its position against his mediation efforts.

Seger is scheduled to visit Burundi for the last time between 1-3 July before finishing his posting as the Swiss permanent representative to the UN.

Key Issues
An immediate issue is ensuring that Burundi does not descend into chaos and further violence.

Should the political situation take a significant turn for the worse, an issue for the Council will be how to act quickly in order to prevent the situation from developing into an acute crisis.

Ensuring that the 2015 elections are free and fair, with the participation of opposition parties unhindered by the government and its youth wing, will be a further issue for the Council.

The Council may continue to monitor the situation throughout the election period to ensure that its recent presidential statement is implemented by Burundi.

If the political situation fails to improve or worsens, the Council might consider adopting targeted sanctions against spoilers of the political dialogue and those responsible for human rights violations.

Council and Wider Dynamics
After the termination of the UN Office in Burundi in 2014 at the request of Burundi (and against the will of UN officials, civil society groups and some Council members) and the downsizing of the UN presence to an electoral mission, as well as the UN Country Team, and the continued presence of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Council has been somewhat marginalised in its role and has essentially let regional and subregional actors take the lead in addressing the current crisis.   

There is disagreement between those Council members who, such as Russia and China, see this as an internal constitutional issue, and those such as France and the US, who wish to take a hard line against Nkurunziza’s third-term bid, the crackdown on the opposition and the quashing of civil and political rights by the government. This disagreement has resulted in relatively weak messaging from the Council which has not gone beyond reiterating the need for dialogue, disarmament of youth groups and upholding the rule of law. This difference of opinion continues to dominate Council dynamics, as evidenced by the negotiations over the 26 June presidential statement, resulting in a rather passive monitoring role for the Council during the current crisis and lack of endorsement of the AU communiqué. In contrast to the Council’s passivity, Burundi has sent the Council several letters over the last few months conveying its position as to the ongoing crisis. It seems at this point that there is general acceptance by Council members (albeit reluctantly by some) of the inevitability of Nkurunziza’s running for a third term, and the focus has shifted to minimising the violence and improving the conditions for the holding of free and fair elections.

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Security Council Presidential Statements
26 June 2015 S/PRST/2015/13 This called on all parties in Burundi to participate in inclusive dialogue to create conducive conditions for the elections.
Security Council Letters
16 June 2015 S/2015/437 This was from Burundi detailing the new electoral calendar and that Burundi will not postpone the elections further.
15 June 2015 S/2015/436 This contained the AU PSC communiqué of 13 June on Burundi.


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