Final Mandate Extension for UN Office in Burundi
Tomorrow (13 February), the Security Council is set to adopt a resolution on the mandate of the UN Office in Burundi (BNUB). The draft resolution, which was under silence until 11 this morning, reflects a compromise between termination and transfer of all responsibilities within six months to a UN country team, as originally wished by Burundi, and the extension of BNUB until after the June 2015 elections. The text as it stands extends BNUB until the end of 2014, while specifying that all transition activities are to be completed by that date, and requests the Secretary-General to establish an electoral mission to follow and report on the electoral process.
Since August 2013, Burundi has made it clear that it wished to see BNUB terminated because it viewed its presence as a signal to private foreign investors that the country was unstable. On 17 January 2014, Burundi forwarded a 15 January letter from Foreign Minister Laurent Kavakure to the Council which unequivocally stated that Burundi wished BNUB to expire and that the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of BNUB, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, should ensure that the mission conclude all operations within six months of its termination date.
The Council has been guided in its views by the findings of a Strategic Assessment Mission (SAM) requested by resolution 2090, which last renewed BNUB. The SAM visited Burundi from 4-10 November and its findings were discussed in the UN Policy Committee on 17 December and included in the Secretary-General’s report on BNUB (S/2014/36). The SAM concluded that the security situation in Burundi remained stable, but in light of on-going political and institutional challenges and human rights concerns, BNUB should remain until after the June 2015 general elections. Taking into account the stated position of the government, the report also offered two less-preferred options, the first being a scaled-down political mission and the second, as a last resort, the appointment of a special envoy to promote and facilitate dialogue between national actors and coordinate international efforts to ensure an environment conducive to free and fair elections in 2015.
On 28 January Onanga-Anyanga, and Ambassador Paul Seger (Switzerland), the chair of the Burundi configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), briefed the Council (S/PV.7104). Onanga-Anyanga told the Council that the recommendation to extend BNUB was based on the evaluation of peacebuilding benchmarks, and took into account the fact that a country team would not be able to absorb the mission’s tasks at the present time. Foreign Minister Kavakure, who also addressed the Council, requested that it adopt a resolution closing down BNUB’s operations and for the Secretary-General to commence practical arrangements for the transfer of responsibilities to a UN country team to be operational by January 2015. In addition, he stated that Burundi requests the Secretary-General to consider the deployment of electoral observers before, during and after the June 2015 elections.
While most Council members were of the opinion that, in order to ensure future progress in Burundi, BNUB should stay on the ground until after the June 2015 elections, they are also cognisant of the fact that BNUB legally requires the consent of the host government since it is a Chapter VI political mission, and that practically it would not be able to implement its mandate without official cooperation. Council members such as China and Russia had further emphasised the need to respect the government’s wishes.
In light of this position, France, the UK and the US tried to persuade Burundi to extend the presence of BNUB, or at the very least extend the duration of its transition period into a UN country team. Burundi responded with a letter to the Council on 28 January stating that following the advice of France, the UK and the US, Burundi is willing to allow BNUB to stay until the end of 2014. In a follow-up letter on 10 February, Burundi reiterated that it wishes to see BNUB finish all operations by 31 December and that from 1 January 2015, the sole interlocutor with the government should be a UN country team. However, the first version of the draft resolution which circulated to Council members on 7 February, extended BNUB for 12 months. Following comments made during the experts meeting held on Monday (10 February), the text was amended and the text in blue extends BNUB until 31 December 2014 and requests the Secretary-General to prepare for a transition specifically by that date, so to more accurately reflect Burundi’s current position.
The draft resolution also contains several reporting requirements. It requests the Secretary-General to keep the Council informed on the implementation of BNUB’s mandate and the transition into a country team every 90 days, an interim report by the end of July 2014 and a final report on BNUB by 16 January 2015. In addition, the Secretary General is to further report to the Council on Burundi every six months until after the 2015 elections.
Other notable elements in the draft resolution include calling on Burundi to address continued human rights abuses, extrajudicial killings, torture, restrictions on civil liberties, including intimidation and violence by politically motivated youth groups and the lack of accountability for such events; calling on Burundi to prevent limitations on the freedom of press, expression, association and assembly of the opposition and civil society; stressing the importance of addressing existing land disputes between communities in a non-partisan manner, bearing in mind the need for national reconciliation; calling on the government to foster inclusive elections, improve dialogue between all political parties and allow the opposition to fully participate in the electoral process; taking note of a lack of progress on establishing a truth and reconciliation commission as required under the Arusha Peace Agreement; and noting that Burundi is a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and is obligated to fight impunity.