Expected Council Action
In July, the Council may consider whether to renew the authorisation of a UN police component for Burundi, with a ceiling of 228 officers, as stipulated by resolution 2303 of 29 July 2016. The police component was intended to monitor the security situation and support the monitoring of human rights. However, it has never been deployed as Burundi has ignored the resolution and refused to allow the component to be established. The component proposal remains a divisive issue in the Council. Resolution 2303 was adopted with 11 votes in favour and four abstentions (Angola, China, Egypt and Venezuela).
Authorisation for the police component expires on 29 July.
Key Recent Developments
The security and political situation in Burundi, which deteriorated sharply after April 2015 when Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza announced that he would run for a controversial third term, remains dire. Serious human rights abuses continue to be committed daily with impunity, mainly by the government and the Imbonerakure, the youth group of the Nkurunziza’s party.
Oppression and state control over Burundian society has reportedly increased, manifested by arbitrary deprivations of life, enforced disappearances, cases of torture, and arbitrary detention on a large scale. These actions are taking place in an environment where freedoms of expression, association and assembly are virtually non-existent. On the political front, Nkurunziza has set up a commission to propose a revision of Burundi’s constitution; the commission is due to report within six months. Nkurunziza has indicated that he is not ruling out a fourth term.
Meanwhile, there seems to have been little headway in the Inter-Burundian dialogue, led by the East African Community (EAC) and facilitated by former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa. Mkapa reported on difficulties mediating the Dialogue to an EAC heads of state summit that took place on 20 May, and has publicity criticised the Burundian government’s unwillingness to engage with opponents.
On 13 March, Council members issued a press statement expressing their concern about the humanitarian and human rights situation in the country and the slow progress in the Inter-Burundian Dialogue.
The Secretary-General appointed Michel Kafando (Burkina Faso) as his Special Envoy on 5 May. His responsibilities include coordinating UN political efforts to promote peace and sustainable development in Burundi and assisting the EAC mediation efforts.
On 20 June, the Council was briefed on the situation in Burundi by Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Tayé-Brook Zerihoun. Ambassador Jürg Lauber (Switzerland) also briefed in his capacity as chair of the Peacebuilding Commission’s Burundi configuration. During his briefing, Zerihoun reported that the situation in Burundi remains volatile, human rights abuses are continuing to be reported, and there is increasing incitement of hatred and violence by and within the Imbonerakure. Only one Council member, Uruguay, spoke publicly following the briefing, with other members reserving their engagement for the consultations that followed.
Human Rights-Related Developments
During its 35th session, the Human Rights Council (HRC) held an interactive dialogue on 15 June with the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, which provided an oral briefing. The commission expressed regret at the lack of cooperation from Burundian officials and at not being able to visit the country, particularly given that Burundi is an HRC member. Nevertheless, the commission’s investigations were able to confirm human rights violations including extrajudicial executions, acts of torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment, sexual and gender-based violence, arbitrary arrests and detention, and enforced disappearances. These violations are reinforced by hate speech delivered by state officials and members of the ruling party, ongoing impunity for perpetrators, and a climate of widespread fear. In addition, severe restrictions on civil liberties persist. The commission is set to present its final report to the HRC at its 36th session in September 2017.
The immediate issue for the Council is whether to reauthorise the police component established by resolution 2303, despite Burundi’s continued blocking of the component’s deployment.
A related issue, if the Council does not reauthorise the police component, is how to avoid perceptions that Burundi can ignore Council resolutions without consequences.
The larger issue is ensuring that the situation in Burundi does not descend into chaos and further violence, including ethnically motivated violence.
On the political front, a main issue is finding an avenue for renewed and productive engagement between the UN and Burundi in order to solve the political crisis.
One option is for the Council to reauthorise the police component as set out in resolution 2303. In doing so the Council could:
- re-engage with Burundi on ways to implement resolution 2303, or find a new platform for engagement if that proves impossible; or
- adopt targeted sanctions against spoilers of the political dialogue, those responsible for human rights violations, and those that block the implementation of resolution 2303.
Another option would be for the Council to let the authorisation of the police component expire, and seek to engage Burundi on other ways to fulfil the role envisaged for the police component, for example supporting an expanded role for the African Union (AU) in human rights monitoring.
Other options to address the crisis in Burundi include:
- coordinating efforts with the AU and EAC in engaging with Burundi to advance the Inter-Burundian Dialogue and facilitate both the UN and AU deployments in the country; and
- requesting the Secretary-General to engage with the Burundian government directly, and supporting Special Envoy Kafando in his efforts to provide for a greater UN role in the Inter-Burundian Dialogue.
With Burundi currently entrenched in its opposition to the implementation of resolution 2303—a position well known prior to the adoption of the resolution—the Council is at an impasse with respect to its engagement with the country. Some Council members stress the need to establish a new basis for renewed engagement with Burundi. Other members are concerned that failing to reauthorise the police component would establish a precedent of Council resolutions being ignored with impunity. At the same time, Council members fear that the current state of affairs in Burundi—sporadic violence accompanied by severe human rights violations—could become a “tolerable” status quo for the international community.
France is the penholder on Burundi.
UN DOCUMENTS ON BURUNDI
|Security Council Resolutions|
|29 July 2016 S/RES/2303||The Council established a UN police component in Burundi of 228 officers for an initial period of one year.|
|23 February 2017 S/2017/165||This was Secretary-General’s report on Burundi.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|20 June 2017 S/PV.7978||This was a briefing on the situation in Burundi.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|13 March 2017 SC/12750||This was a press statement expressing concern about the humanitarian and human rights situation in the country and the slow progress in the Inter-Burundian dialogue.|