Expected Council Action
In June, a Secretariat representative is expected to brief the Council on the situation in Burundi in a videoconference meeting.
Key Recent Developments
In May, the Council was expected to meet on Burundi, in keeping with the quarterly briefings on the issue requested by resolution 2303. That meeting was not scheduled, however, and it appears that the decision was taken to postpone it until after Burundi’s 20 May elections. Council members had held an informal interactive dialogue (IID) on the situation in Burundi on 26 February. This was originally envisaged as a formal public briefing followed by consultations, but the president of the Council—Belgium—decided instead to hold an IID, which allows for non-Council members to participate in a private discussion. The last formal Council meeting on Burundi took place on 30 October 2019. (Resolution 2303 adopted on 29 July 2016 requires the Secretary-General to report on the situation in Burundi every three months.)
On 20 May, Burundi held Presidential elections. The elections will determine a successor to President Pierre Nkurunziza, who won a controversial third term in 2015, precipitating mass demonstrations and an increase in violence and repression against his opponents. Seven candidates competed in the elections. Evariste Ndayishimiye, Secretary-General of the National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD)—Burundi’s ruling party—and Agathon Rwasa of the National Congress for Liberty (CNL), the leading opposition party, were considered the top two candidates. According to media reports, polling took place in a largely incident-free environment. Speaking to the media on 22 May, Rwasa said, however, that more than 200 CNL supporters were arrested on election day and that he retained the option of challenging the results over suspected fraud. On 25 May, provisional results were announced with Ndayishimiye winning 68 percent of the vote and Rwasa with 24 percent.
The pre-election campaign was conducted in a tense environment: there were reports of campaign violence and of the arrest of at least 140 members of the political opposition during the campaign. On 11 May, the Burundian government informed the East African Community (EAC) that EAC election observers would be required to quarantine for 14 days because of COVID-19; consequently, the EAC was unable to undertake its observation activities. The threat of COVID-19 did not prevent the candidates from organising large campaign rallies. On 12 May, the World Health Organization’s country representative and three other staff members were expelled from Burundi. According to the UN’s Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, which released a statement on the situation on 14 May, the electoral campaign was “marred by a spiral of violence and political intolerance”. In a 17 May joint statement, the AU Commission and UN Secretariat called on “all entities involved in organizing the 20 May elections, the defense and security forces and state-owned media to fully contribute to preserving a stable and peaceful environment, pre-requisite for free, inclusive, fair, transparent and credible elections in Burundi”.
Key Issues and Options
The conduct of the presidential elections and the post-election transition, as well as reports of increased suppression of civil liberties during the pre-election period, are areas of concern for several Council members. The impact that the elections will have on the stalled inter-Burundian dialogue is also something that the Council will monitor closely.
Another major issue is the continued lack of accountability for human rights violations over the last several years, amplified by the closure in February 2019 of the country’s UN Human Rights Office at the insistence of the government after a 23-year presence. The Council may encourage Burundi to cooperate fully with all UN bodies.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Some members maintain that, given the political tensions and human rights violations in the country, Burundi should remain on the Council’s agenda while others, notably Russia and China, argue that the country should come off the agenda as it does not represent a threat to international peace and security. In the past, South Africa appealed to the Council “to support the Government of Burundi and the EAC mediation process as it lays the foundation for an environment that is conducive to the holding of democratic elections”.
The Council has had difficulty finding new channels through which to re-engage Burundi. The conduct of the elections and post-election transition could provide the Council an opportunity to revisit the nature of its engagement with Burundi and the frequency and timing of Council briefings.
France is the penholder on Burundi.
UN Documents on Burundi
|Security Council Resolutions|
|29 July 2016S/RES/2303||The Council established a UN police component in Burundi of 228 officers for an initial period of one year.|
|24 October 2019S/2019/837||This was the Secretary-General’s report on the situation in Burundi.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|30 October 2019S/PV.8652||This was a briefing by Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Burundi Michel Kafando.|