What's In Blue

Posted Mon 19 Jun 2017

Briefing on Burundi

Tomorrow (20 June), the Council will receive a briefing on the situation in Burundi, after which Council members will hold consultations. The briefing will be delivered by Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Tayé-Brook Zerihoun. Ambassador Jürg Lauber (Switzerland) is also expected to brief in his capacity as chair of the Peacebuilding Commission’s Burundi configuration.

The briefing tomorrow will be only the third on Burundi since the Council adopted resolution 2303 on 29 July 2016. The resolution had called for the Secretary-General to report every three months on the situation in Burundi, including on the deployment of the police component, which was authorised by the resolution but never established. An oral briefing was delivered to Council members in consultations on 8 November 2016; a written report was submitted to the Council in late February (S/2017/165), and discussed on 9 March (S.PV/7895).

The Secretary-General has not submitted a written report in advance of tomorrow’s briefing. The discussion is expected to focus on the ongoing violence in Burundi, and on the lack of progress in deploying the 228 police officers authorised to “monitor the security situation and to support [the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights] in monitoring human rights violations and abuses”. The deployment of the police component was opposed by Burundi, and the Council was divided over whether to authorise the deployment without host state consent, leading to resolution 2303 being adopted with four abstentions (Angola, China, Egypt and Venezuela) and 11 votes in favour.

Some Council members are likely to raise the future of the police component, as in July the Council is expected to consider whether to reauthorise the deployment ahead of its expiry on 29 July. There remains a lack of Council unity on the future of the component, and more broadly on how the Council should engage with Burundi. Council members will be interested in the briefers’ views on possible options to renew engagement with Burundi, which continues to shun international cooperation; this may include recommendations on how to incentivise Burundi to find a political solution to the crisis. The Secretary-General appointed Michel Kafando as his Special Envoy on 5 May, stating that his role will include leading and coordinating the UN political efforts to promote peace and sustainable development in Burundi, and providing assistance to the efforts of the East African Community for political dialogue among Burundi role players.

Council members will also be interested in gaining a better understanding of the current situation on the ground in Burundi, and the nature of the ongoing violence. There are regular attacks and incidents of violence, particularly in Bujumbura. On 14 June, in a briefing to the UN Human Rights Council, the chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, Fatsah Ouguergouz, asserted: “There are continuing reports of disappearances. Dead bodies are also still regularly discovered.” Ouguergouz added that “human rights violations are reinforced by hate speech delivered by certain state officials and members of the ruling party.” Members may ask about reports that the Imbonerakure, the youth group of the President Pierre Nkurunziza’s party, is growing in size, strength and influence. Some Council members remain concerned that the violence could become focused on ethnicity, while others believe that viewing the current crisis through the lens of the Council’s 1990s failures risks obscuring current realities.