What's In Blue

Posted Thu 13 Jun 2019

Burundi Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow (14 June), Assistant-Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support Oscar Fernandez-Taranco will brief the Council on the situation in Burundi. AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Smaїl Chergui (via video-teleconference) and Ambassador Jürg Lauber (Switzerland), the chair of the Burundi configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, will also brief.  Consultations will follow the briefing.

The meeting was originally scheduled to take place on 28 May, in accordance with resolution 2303 of 29 July 2016, which requested the Secretary-General to report to the Council on Burundi every three months. It was postponed, however, at the request of Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo and with the support of the African members of the Council. The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Michel Kafando, who had planned to brief on 28 May, will not be available tomorrow.

The security and political situation in Burundi—which deteriorated sharply after April 2015, when Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza announced that he would run for a controversial third term later that year—remains unsettled. While the Burundian government maintains that the security situation is good throughout the country, serious human rights abuses continue to be committed daily with impunity, mainly by the government and the Imbonerakure, the youth wing of Nkurunziza’s party.

Arbitrary killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and arbitrary detentions continue as the overall level of oppression and state control over Burundian society persists. Furthermore, these actions are taking place in an environment where freedom of expression, association, and assembly are suppressed. The repression of these freedoms is of particular concern as the country prepares for elections in 2020.

On 5 March, High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet announced, “with deep regret”, that the UN Human Rights Office in Burundi was closed on 28 February at the insistence of the government after a 23-year presence in the country.

Some Council members may emphasise their concerns over the human rights situation in the country and the need for free and fair elections in 2020, carried out in an environment conducive to full participation by all. They may also stress the importance of the engagement of the region, including the AU and the East African Community (EAC), as well as the guarantors of the Arusha Accord, which put an end to civil war and ethnic violence in 2000. In this context, they may call for the revival of the EAC-led inter-Burundian dialogue between the government and opposition parties, which was convened outside Burundi and made little progress through its fifth and final round, held in October 2018.

Despite these concerns, some Council members continue to question the need to keep Burundi on the Council’s agenda, viewing the situation as an internal issue that lacks a pressing international peace and security dimension. During the last Burundi briefing on 19 February (S/PV.8465), Russia stated that “the situation in Burundi does not pose any threats to international peace and security, which gives us good reason to doubt whether it makes sense to keep Burundi as an item on the Council’s overburdened agenda. We think that keeping the Council’s attention focused on Burundi is becoming counterproductive and is basically there as a convenient excuse for the unreconciled opposition to complicate the country’s internal political processes”.

Burundi reiterated in the meeting its position that it should be taken off the Council’s agenda: “For four years, a handful of external stakeholders have stubbornly ignored these multiple calls for Burundi to be removed from the Council’s agenda”.

Lauber will speak about his recent visit to Burundi, from 5 to 10 May, where he met with government officials, including Minister of Foreign Affairs Ezéchiel Nibigira, lawmakers, opposition figures, representatives of the private sector, civil society and the diplomatic community, as well as the UN country team. He may address Burundi’s preparations for the 2020 elections, which are well underway and, at the same time, convey concerns over the opposition’s ability to participate freely in the electoral process.