Update Report

Posted 25 August 2008
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Update Report No. 3: Burundi

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Expected Council Action
On 26 August, the Council is expected to hold a debate, scheduled following an initiative by the UN Secretariat, on the political situation in Burundi. The chairman of the PBC Country Specific Configuration for Burundi, Sweden’s Ambassador Anders Lidén, Ambassador Augustin Nsanze of Burundi and the Executive Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Integrated Office in Burundi (BINUB),Youssef Mahmoud, are likely to attend. Mahmoud is also likely to brief the Council in private consultations after the debate. A press statement may be issued after the meeting.

Key Developments
Recent developments regarding the Burundi peace process have been mixed. The outbreak of violent conflict between the government of Burundi and the Palipehutu-Forces nationales de libération (FNL) in late April through early May, which killed over a 100 people, formally ended with the signing of an agreement on the cessation of hostilities on 26 May. FNL leader Agathon Rwasa returned to the country from exile in Tanzania around that period. On 11 June, the Burundian government and FNL held talks in Magaliesburg, South Africa, which culminated in the issuance of a declaration in which they made joint commitments to:

  • renounce violence and to resolve all their differences by dialogue; and
  • fully respect the timelines outlined in the Revised Programme of Action to Take Further the Burundi Peace Process, including implementation of the 2006 Agreement of Principles, the 2006 Comprehensive Ceasefire Agreement and the integration of the FNL in the national institutions.

However, the pace of implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement has since been slow. (The Programme of Action is a regional road map of sequenced steps, agreed to by both the Burundian government and FNL during the first quarter of this year, for implementation of the CPA and conclusion of the peace process by the end of 2008.)

On 5 June, the Constitutional Court of Burundi decided that the ruling Conseil national pour la défense de la démocratie—Forces pour la défense de la démocratie (CNDD-FDD) party could replace 22 of its MPs who had broken with the party leadership, by new ones. In effect, the ruling assured a two thirds majority in the National Assembly for President Pierre Nkurunziza’s ruling party and its allies.

On 15 May, the Secretary-General submitted his last report on the situation in Burundi to the Council. He indicated that the country’s general political, security and humanitarian situation had deteriorated significantly with renewed large-scale hostilities in April between the national security forces and FNL, as well as the resumption of friction between political parties leading to another political crisis, which had paralysed the work of parliament and the broad-based government appointed in November 2007. Other concerns included the population displacements resulting from the hostilities, continued infringements of human rights by the national security forces, lack of progress on transitional justice and possible food insecurity. The Council was urged to consider additional measures, in consultation with the regional mechanisms, in the event of further delays in implementing the Programme of Action to Take Further the Peace Process in Burundi.

On 22 May, the Council held an open briefing on the situation in Burundi, during which the then chair of the PBC Burundi configuration, Ambassador Johan L. Løvald of Norway, briefed the Council about his visit to the country from 10 to 15 May following the fighting between Burundian government forces and fighters of the FNL rebel movement. He voiced concern about the conflict but also noted that the return of the FNL to Bujumbura the previous week was promising. Løvald however cautioned that the progress made could be compromised without the return of the FNL to the Joint Verification and Monitoring Mechanism and full implementation of the Comprehensive Ceasefire Agreement of 2006, peace consolidation gains would be in jeopardy. During that meeting, Ambassador Augustin Nsanze of Burundi, while noting the challenges facing his country, also pointed out that developments that occurred after the clashes between government forces and the FNL had made it possible to be optimistic about the future. He said that concrete steps had to be taken to consolidate the gains made. The Council subsequently issued a press statement expressing concern about the clashes between government forces and the FNL in Burundi and called for an end to hostilities and full implementation of the 2006 Comprehensive Ceasefire Agreement.

PBC Developments

From 10 to 15 May, a delegation of seven members of the Burundi configuration travelled to Burundi on a field mission to obtain first-hand information about the situation on the ground, especially on renewed hostilities between the Palipehutu-FNL and the National Defence Forces of Burundi, following attacks by the Palipehutu-FNL in April 2008 and the stalemate in parliament. The visit also served as an opportunity to review the preparation of the first biannual review of the Strategic Framework for Peacebuilding in Burundi scheduled for 23 June and to focus the attention of the international community on peacebuilding efforts in the country.

On 27 May 2008, the Burundi configuration of the PBC convened a thematic meeting on finding sustainable solutions to land issues, in light of the return of refugees from Tanzania to the country and the anticipated implications in terms of the need for additional resources to mitigate associated challenges.

On 23 June, the PBC issued its review of the progress in the implementation of the Strategic Framework for Peacebuilding in Burundi (PBC/2/BDI/10), which analysed trends and reviewed progress in terms of Burundi’s peacebuilding priorities and assessed the mutual engagements of the government of Burundi, the PBC, international partners and other stakeholders. Also on 23 June the first biannual review of the progress and challenges to the Burundi Strategic Framework was held by the PBC, and recommendations of the review adopted (PBC/2/BDI/9).

On 17 July, the Organisational Committee elected Sweden tosucceed Norway as chair of the Burundi country specific configuration. Sweden joined the PBC in June as a top financial contributor, as Norway and Canada rotated off the Commission.

Key Issues
The key issue for the Council relates to ensuring progress in the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Burundian government and the Palipehutu-FNL and that there are improvements in the relationship between the ruling party and the opposition. (There are concerns that the majority hold of the CNDD-FDD on the National Assembly following the favourable ruling of the Constitutional Court for the replacement of dissident CNDD-FDD MPs with the faithful supporters of the party’s leadership, could lead to a political debacle in the long term since disaffected members might enter into alliances with the FNL. Also, the prospect of the participation of the Palipehutu-FNL—whose name clearly conveys its Hutu ethnic affinity—in future elections raises concerns about problematic ethnic dimensions returning to the already fragile political and security scene in Burundi.)

Options before the Council could include:

  • a resolution or statement demanding the full engagement of all opposing political factions towards ending the high degree of political polarisation and intolerance; and
  • a more low-key press statement seeking to steer the parties towards an early resolution of differences and implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

Council Dynamics
There is consensus among Council members that there is still a need for major headway to be made in the political situation in the country, hence their agreement to the proposal by the UN Secretariat to organise the upcoming meeting. (The Secretariat had requested to update the Council, in light of the lack of progress in the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, contrary to expectations. The return home of FNL Chairman Agathon Rwasa as well as the continuing political friction between the ruling party and the opposition were further developments of note. The Secretariat hopes for some explicit Council support to help advance the pace of peace consolidation in Burundi and to help create conditions for holding free and fair elections in 2010.)

France, South Africa and Belgium play a lead role on this issue.

Underlying Problems
While the major problem relates to the implementation of the Comprehensive Ceasefire Agreement between the government of Burundi and the FNL, crucial peacebuilding priorities confronting Burundi need to be addressed, including security sector reform and judicial reform, dire economic constraints reflected in high levels of unemployment and poverty, lack of basic social services and faulty infrastructure. Rising food and fuel cost have made matters worse. Human rights abuses by elements of the national security services and lack of accountability for past crimes pose further challenges.

UN Documents

Selected Resolutions

  • S/RES/1791 (19 December 2007) extended the mandate of BINUB until 31 December 2008.
  • S/RES/1719 (25 October 2006) established BINUB.
  • S/RES/1606 (20 June 2005) requested the Secretary-General to start negotiations on transitional justice mechanisms in Burundi.

Selected Security Council Presidential Statement

  • S/PRST/2008/10 (24 April 2008) was the latest statement of the Council on the situation in Burundi.
  • S/PRST/2007/16 (30 May 2007) was a statement in which the Council welcomed the establishment of BINUB and called on parties to resolve outstanding issues in a spirit of cooperation.

Selected Secretary-General’s Report

  • S/2008/330 (15 May 2008) was the latest report on BINUB.
  • S/2007/686 (28 November 2007) was the report on children and armed conflict in Burundi.
  • S/2007/287 (17 May 2007) was the first BINUB report.

Other Selected Documents

  • PBC/2/BDI/10 (23 June 2008) was the review of the progress report in the implementation of the Strategic Framework for Peacebuilding in Burundi
  • PBC/2/BDI/9 (23 June 2008) was the recommendation of the biannual review of the implementation of the Strategic Framework for Peacebuilding in Burundi.
  • SC/9339 (22 May 2008) was the press statement expressing concerns about the clashes between government forces and the FNL in Burundi and called for an end to hostilities and full implementation of the 2006 comprehensive ceasefire agreement.
  • S/PV.5897 (22 May 2008) was the verbatim record of the debate on the third report of the Secretary on BINUB.
  • PBC/2/BDI/7 (20 March 2008) was the PBC’s conclusions and recommendations on the situation in Burundi.
  • SC/9181 (28 November 2007) was the latest Council press statement on the situation in Burundi.
  • PBC/2/BDI/4 (27 November 2007) was the Monitoring and Tracking Mechanism of the Strategic Framework for Peacebuilding in Burundi.
  • SC/9056 (21 June 2007) was a Council press statement on the 17 June 2007 talks in Dar es Salaam between the president of Burundi and the leader of the rebel FNL.
  • PBC/1/BDI/2 (21 May 2007) was the report of the PBC mission to Burundi.

Other Relevant Facts

Executive Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of BINUB

Youssef Mahmoud (Tunisia)

Size and Composition of Mission (1 January 2007)

  • Proposed strength: 448 personnel (including 141 international civilians, 235 local civilians, four military observers, 11 police and 51 UN volunteers)
  • Strength as of October 2007: 399 personnel (including 116 international civilians, 217 local civilians, eight military observers, 12 police and 46 UN volunteers)


January 2007 to present; mandate expires 31 December

Recommended Budget

$33.1 million