Expected Council Action
In November, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Michel Kafando, will brief the Council on the situation in Burundi.
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 unsettled. The Burundian government, for its part, maintains that the security situation is good throughout the country. Serious human rights abuses continue to be committed daily with impunity, and oppression and state control over Burundian society remains high, exerted mainly by the government and the Imbonerakure, the youth group of Nkurunziza’s party. Thus, while the security situation has been stable, many fear the situation is untenable and masks a serious risk of violent escalation between the government and those that oppose it (for more on the situation in Burundi, see our September Forecast).
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. The opposition has been critical of Mkapa, accusing him of siding with the government, after his public comments made in support of the legitimacy of Nkurunziza’s presidency and the need to focus on the future, mainly free and fair elections in 2020. At present, the dialogue is scheduled to be renewed in November.
Kafando met with the leaders in exile of the Conseil National pour le respect de l’Accord d’Arusha (CNARED), a platform composed of opposition groups in exile and part of the internal opposition to Nkurunziza, in Brussels on 14 October. According to a CNARED press release, the opposition leaders repeated their request for an all-inclusive subregional dialogue. Kafando expressed his commitment to facilitate a solution to the political crisis.
At the 19 October conclusion of the heads of state summit of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, to which Burundi is a party, the conference released a communiqué noting the improvement in the security situation in Burundi. It further urged countries hosting Burundian refugees to facilitate the return of willing refugees to Burundi. The communiqué also expressed support for the EAC-led inter-Burundian dialogue.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 19 September, the Human Rights Council (HRC) held an interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi and considered its report (A/HRC/36/54). The report documents the persistence of extrajudicial executions; arbitrary arrests and detentions; enforced disappearances; torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; and sexual violence in Burundi since April 2015, mostly committed by government forces. It concludes that there are reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed since April 2015. Burundi sent a letter to the Security Council rejecting the Commission’s report (S/2017/779).
On 28 September, the HRC adopted a resolution sponsored by the African Group (minus Botswana and Rwanda) requesting OHCHR to urgently dispatch a team of three experts “to collect and preserve information, to determine the facts and circumstances…in cooperation with the government of Burundi, and to forward to the judicial authorities of Burundi such information” concerning human rights violations (A/HRC/RES/36/2). The vote was 23 in favour and 14 against with nine abstentions. Security Council members also on the HRC voted as follows: China, Bolivia, Egypt, and Ethiopia voted in favour; the US and UK voted against; and Japan abstained.
On 29 September, the HRC adopted a resolution sponsored by the EU that extended the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi for one year (A/HRC/RES/36/19). The resolution requests the Commission to present a written report at the HRC’s 39th session and at the General Assembly’s 73rd session. The vote was 22 in favour and 11 against, with 14 abstentions, Security Council members also on the HRC voted as follows: the US, UK and Japan voted in favour; China, Bolivia and Egypt voted against; and Ethiopia abstained.
Key Issues and Options
The ongoing and pressing issue is ensuring that the situation in Burundi does not descend into chaos and further violence, and that a way is found to move beyond the fragile status quo in the country.
As part of its attempt to make headway in Burundi, a main issue for the Council is finding an avenue for engagement between the UN and Burundi in order to solve the political crisis, while Burundi remains opposed to the deployment of a peace component in accordance with resolution 2303.
Finally, a major issue is the lack of accountability for potential international crimes over the last two years in Burundi, particularly in light of the gravity of the Commission of Inquiry’s report.
One possible way to address these issues is to impose targeted sanctions against spoilers of the political dialogue, those responsible for human rights violations, and those who are blocking the implementation of resolution 2303.
Burundi remains entrenched in its opposition to the involvement of the international community in the country’s political affairs. The Council, meanwhile, is at an impasse with respect to its engagement with the country, split between those who view the situation as an internal issue lacking a pressing security dimension, and those who see it as volatile and closely related to international peace and security because it threatens the viability of the 2000 Arusha Accord, which put an end to civil war and ethnic violence in the country. With the Council split, the current state of affairs in Burundi seems to have become a “tolerable” status quo for the international community as its attention shifts elsewhere.
France is the penholder on Burundi.
UN DOCUMENTS ON BURUNDI
|Security Council Resolution|
|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.|
|Security Council Letter|
|14 September 2017 S/2017/779||This was a letter from Burundi rejecting the Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry report on human rights violations in the country.|
|Human Rights Council Documents|
|29 September 2017 A/HRC/RES/36/19||This was a Human Rights Council resolution extending the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi for one year.|
|28 September 2017 A/HRC/RES/36/2||This was a Human Rights Council resolution requesting OHCHR to urgently dispatch a team of three experts to Burundi to collect information concerning human rights violations in cooperation with the government of Burundi and to forward such information to the judicial authorities of Burundi.|