Burundi Consultations Following Elections and Attacks
This afternoon (10 August), at the request of France, Council members will be briefed in consultations on the situation in Burundi by Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Tayè-Brook Zerihoun and Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Ŝimonović.
This is the first Council meeting on Burundi since the controversial presidential elections of 21 July in which incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza received 69.4 percent of the votes for his third term bid, in a ballot boycotted by four of his seven opponents. The presidential elections followed parliamentary and municipal elections that took place on 29 June, despite calls for postponement by the Secretary-General as well as the AU and East African Community (EAC). Nkurunziza’s party won 77 of 100 seats in the parliament. Burundi has been plagued by violence and political unrest since Nkurunziza’s 25 April announcement that he would run in the presidential election for a third term, which many view as unconstitutional.
A preliminary report issued by the UN Electoral Observation Mission (MENUB) observed that freedom of expression, assembly and association remain severely hampered and the media are significantly restricted. Thus, similar to its preliminary observations on the 29 June elections, MENUB concluded that the environment was not conducive to free, credible and inclusive presidential elections. The AU, EU, EAC and the US have also characterised the process as flawed. In Burundi itself, the result was rejected by the main opposition parties, but one leading opposition member, Agathon Rwasa, agreed to take the post of deputy parliamentary speaker, saying this was to promote reconciliation.
The security situation deteriorated further when a senior presidential adviser for internal security and former head of the intelligence services General Adolphe Nshimirimana, was assassinated in his car in Bujumbura on 2 August. Nshimirimana was said to be one of Nkurunziza’s closest allies and a strong influence on Nkurunziza’s hard line policies. The following day, human rights activist and a leading critic of Nkurunziza, Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, was shot and wounded in Bujumbura. (Council members are familiar with Mbonimpa as he was one of the civil society leaders they met during their 13 March visit to Burundi).
Burundi’s prosecutor announced yesterday (9 August) that several suspects in the killing of Nshimirimana have been taken into custody. It was also reported that Burundi authorities have allowed Mbonimpa to leave Burundi for Belgium for medical treatment.
France asked for the briefing in order for the Council to continue monitoring the post-electoral situation, and in particular the security environment, after last week’s attacks in Bujumbura. Council members issued a press statement on 4 August condemning both attacks and expressing their concern that “the security situation in Burundi is deteriorating rapidly, following an electoral period marked by violence and reports of violations and abuses of human rights”. They called on the Burundi government and opposition parties to resume an inclusive dialogue without delay. (The political dialogue led by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, under the auspices of the EAC, has been suspended since 19 July.)
In a conference call with Museveni and the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the Secretary-General called for the swift resumption of the dialogue in order to pave the way for the formation of a government of national unity (the EAC communiqué of 6 July called for such a government to be formed by the winner of the elections).The three agreed that the UN, AU and EAC should continue to work together to find a sustainable solution to the crisis in Burundi.
In a telephone conversation with Nkurunziza on 5 August, the Secretary-General expressed his deep concern over the impact of recent events on security in Burundi. He urged Nkurunziza to resume the dialogue led by Museveni. The same day, the Burundi configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission also issued a statement calling on all parties to resume dialogue.
Council members will be interested in hearing more about the role of the UN in finding a political solution to the situation in Burundi, alongside the mediation efforts led by Museveni. The two UN envoys who were successively appointed to lead the mediation efforts before the elections were each eventually rejected by the Burundian political actors. Council members may want to hear about whether a context can be created in which the UN might be able to support the mediation with an envoy. As for the ongoing mediation efforts, Council members will be interested in hearing of the prospects for the formation of a unity government. In this context, a question that remains is how the UN will engage with the Nkurunziza government, as several Council members do not view his re-election as credible.
Throughout the current crisis in Burundi, Council members such as the UK and Spain have voiced their opinion that individual sanctions should be imposed on individuals inciting political violence and human rights violations. On Friday (7 August), US Permanent Representative Samantha Power told the media that the US and other countries are contemplating sanctions against those who are responsible for carrying out gross human rights violations. However Russia, China and the African Council members remain opposed to such measures as they view the current crisis as an internal constitutional issue that does not warrant internationally imposed sanctions.
At press time, it did not appear that the Council was planning any outcome today.