Briefing on UN Office in Burundi Transition and Political Developments
Tomorrow (14 May), the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Office in Burundi (BNUB), Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, will brief the Security Council by video teleconference. The chair of the Burundi configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), Ambassador Paul Seger (Switzerland), will also brief the Council. The briefing will be followed by consultations with Onanga-Anyanga and no outcome is expected.
Since the adoption of resolution 2137, which extended BNUB’s mandate for a final time until 31 December, the country has experienced increasing political turmoil, including reports of politically-motivated attacks against supporters of the opposition and reports of increased violent activities by the Imbonerakure, the youth wing of the incumbent Hutu party. Another worrying development has been continued political controversy around President Pierre Nkurunziza’s initiative for constitutional amendments that alter power-sharing arrangements between Hutu and Tutsi that are fundamental to the 28 August 2000 Arusha Accords.
Concerned by these developments, Council members have followed the situation closely through briefings that provided them with updates. There were three such briefings during 26 March and 8 and 24 April, two of them at the initiative of the US and one at the initiative of the UN Secretariat. Council members issued a press statement on 10 April expressing concern over acts of intimidation, harassment and violence committed by youth groups in Burundi and calling for the government to hold the perpetrators accountable (SC/11350).
Resolution 2137 also asked the Secretary-General to prepare for BNUB’s withdrawal and transfer of responsibilities to the UN country team (UNCT) by 31 December, in accordance with the wishes of Burundi. Furthermore, following a request by Burundi, the resolution called on the Secretary-General to establish an electoral observer mission before, during and after the July 2015 elections.
Accordingly, Onanga-Anyanga is expected to focus his remarks on BNUB’s “Joint Transition Plan”, developed in coordination with the government of Burundi, the PBC Burundi configuration and international partners. The plan tracks progress in the benchmarks established in priority areas, maps the international community’s support to Burundi and identifies possible gaps resulting from BNUB’s closing. It also seeks to enable BNUB to gradually scale down its activities while the UNCT increases its capacities in priority areas and the mission continues to implement its mandate as requested by the Council.
In order to monitor the implementation of the Joint Transition Plan, a Transition Steering Group (TSG)—co-chaired by Onanga-Anyanga and Burundi’s Minister of Foreign Relations, Laurent Kavakure—was established in March 2014. The TSG is composed of representatives of the government of Burundi, international and regional partners, as well as Seger and the UN Resident Coordinator, Rosine Sori-Coulibaly. Among other things, the TSG is mandated to review progress in the transition process during its monthly meetings—particularly on the mobilisation of required resources—and will assess and make adjustments to the transition plan when necessary. Some members may be interested in the TSG’s timeline for this assessment.
Seger is also expected to update the Council on his plans to travel to Burundi at the end of May at the request of Burundi. He will also visit Brussels, Paris, Kigali and Arusha to discuss developments in Burundi with senior representatives of different countries and regional organisations, including the EU and the East African Community, to explore the best options for engagement on Burundi and to define their respective roles in light of BNUB’s departure. It seems Seger will also raise the idea of convening a follow-up meeting to the Geneva Donor Conference of October 2012 to take stock of the fulfilment of commitments made during the conference and the implementation of Burundi’s Strategic Framework for the Fight against Poverty II.
While tomorrow’s meeting is intended to focus on BNUB’s transition process, Council members may take the opportunity to discuss the security and political situation. Council members will be keen to hear Onanga-Anyanga and Seger’s assessments as to whether recent events have disrupted the transitional process. Despite the concerns of some Council members, at this point it is unlikely that the Council will postpone or alter the transition plan laid out by resolution 2137.