What's In Blue

Posted Wed 10 Feb 2016

Burundi Consultations and Briefing by Special Adviser

Security Council members are expected to hold consultations this afternoon on the situation in Burundi. The meeting was called for by France, the penholder on Burundi. Jamal Benomar, the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General, is expected to brief. A representative of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) may also participate to respond to any questions about UN contingency planning with regard to any future deterioration of the situation in Burundi.

It appears that the purpose of the meeting is to take stock of the situation in Burundi and discuss next steps to address the difficult security environment and to move the political process forward. Several members have noted that these consultations are timely, allowing the Council to consider its approach to the issue following the Council’s 21-22 January visiting mission to the country and the AU Summit in Addis Ababa on 30-31 January. While an immediate outcome is not anticipated, the meeting will provide an opportunity to gauge the current views of Council members on the international mediation process, the inter-Burundian dialogue, and possible responses to the security situation, among other issues. The views expressed in the meeting may serve as the foundation for negotiations on a Council decision on Burundi in the near future.

Benomar is expected to brief on current conflict dynamics in Burundi, as well as on his interactions with various Burundian and regional stakeholders to help resolve the political crisis. Several Council members are keen to get his input on the political process in the country and the region. Some members would like to see more active UN support for the mediation efforts spearheaded by President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda on behalf of the East African Community (EAC), and several members want the inter-Burundian dialogue to be more inclusive, a point stressed by Council members’ during their meeting with President Pierre Nkurunziza in Gitega, Burundi, on 22 January. Benomar may provide his insights on the EAC process and on the inter-Burundian dialogue. More broadly, members may want to know Benomar’s views on the efforts that have been made to coordinate the mediation initiatives of the UN, the AU and the EAC to help ensure maximum impact and a smooth working relationship.

The visit of a high-level AU delegation to Burundi, anticipated in the coming weeks, may be a point of discussion. This delegation is expected to include President Ould Abdel Aziz of Mauritania, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, President Macky Sall of Senegal, President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon and Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia. Its mandate from the AU is to consult with the Burundian government and other actors in the country on the inter-Burundian dialogue process. It is further expected to discuss the potential deployment of the African Prevention and Protection Mission in Burundi (MAPROBU), if the government consents to this, although the government has to date rejected the idea of this mission. Members may want to know if Benomar has had any discussions with AU officials on the specific messages that might be delivered by this delegation.

There further appears to be interest in an update on the status of the deployment and activities of Benomar’s support team. This team was mandated by resolution 2248 of 12 November 2015. According to a letter to the Council from the Secretary-General on 1 December 2015 (S/2015/936), the team “will (a.) work with the government of Burundi and other stakeholders to support a credible, inclusive and nationally-owned political dialogue process; and (b.) advise the authorities on how to strengthen rule of law and security institutions in Burundi, as well as the design and implementation of a credible disarmament programme.” At the time of the Council’s visit to Burundi in January, only a few members of this team had been deployed. There may be discussion on the ways the Council can best support the team’s future operations. Related to this, some Council members may want to know more about how this team collaborates with the UN Country Team, staff from the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, and AU human rights monitors in Burundi.

The issue of contingency planning will be discussed, given the dire security environment. In resolution 2248, the Council affirmed the importance of contingency planning by the UN and the AU “to enable the international community to respond to any further deterioration of the situation.” During Council members meeting with Nkurunziza in Gitega, some members raised the need for Burundi to accept some form of enhanced international presence, whether MAPROBU, human rights or military observers, or a police force to work with and train local police. Russia in particular raised the idea of an international police force in Burundi to help address security concerns, train local police and restore trust between the local police and citizens. This afternoon’s meeting could provide an opportunity to explore more thoroughly Russia’s proposal, as well as other options for enhanced international or regional engagement, given the current negative trajectory of events.

DPKO has developed contingency plans for a potential UN uniformed presence in Burundi. The elements of this were forwarded to the Council in early January in the form of a note, prior to the Council’s visiting mission to the country. While the note is confidential, it reportedly outlines three different options for the deployment of UN uniformed personnel under security scenarios of differing severity. The potential deployment would be based on the following assumptions: a Chapter VII mandate from the Council, host country consent, and the willingness of troop-contributors to deploy. It is unclear whether the contents of this note will be discussed tomorrow. At present, it appears highly unlikely that the Burundian government would consent to the deployment of a UN peace operation, and even if it did so, rapid force generation would probably be difficult.