8465th Security Council Meeting: Situation in Burundi

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19-Feb-2019 02:06:28
Dialogue only viable option for resolving Burundi political crisis, special envoy tells Security Council amid debate over keeping it on agenda, at 8465th meeting.

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Heed African Union’s Call for Lifting Sanctions, Says Permanent Representative, Cautioning against ‘Cascade’ of Meetings

Dialogue remains the only viable option for resolving the political crisis in Burundi and for holding peaceful elections in 2020, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for that country told the Security Council today, as delegates debated whether to keep the situation there on its agenda.

Briefing on recent developments 16 months before the planned elections, Special Envoy Michel Kafando pointed in particular to President Pierre Nkurunziza’s stated intention not to seek re-election, as well as the Government’s recognition of the opposition National Congress for Freedom. He noted, however, the ongoing humanitarian and human rights concerns as well as the plight of those displaced inside the country and that of Burundian refugees in neighbouring countries.

He recalled his visit to Burundi from 20 to 29 January, during time he was unable to meet the President, as well as his subsequent meeting with President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, mediator of the inter-Burundian dialogue. He added that he also attended the 1 February Summit of the East African Community, which tasked the Presidents of Kenya, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania with pursuing mediation efforts.

Fatma Kyari Mohammed, the African Union’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations, reiterated that regional bloc’s support for all efforts towards a lasting, peaceful and consensual solution in Burundi. It encourages the Government and opposition groups to step up efforts to finalize a consensual and inclusive agreement that is consistent with the spirit and content of the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, she said, adding that it also encourages the Government to continue with preparations for transparent and peaceful elections.

Jürg Lauber (Switzerland), Chair of the Burundi configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, said that, in the course of 2019, that entity will focus on Burundi’s 2020 elections and its persistent socioeconomic challenges. Sharing several recommendations, he suggested that the Government of Burundi, as well as political parties and other stakeholders, work closely together, with support from other Member States of the subregion, to create an enabling environment for inclusive, democratic and peaceful elections.

In the ensuing debate, Council members agreed that in the run-up to the presidential and parliamentary elections, dialogue among all stakeholders must continue on the basis of the Arusha Agreement and with the help of the East African Community and the African Union. Several voiced concern over the Government’s decision to suspend foreign non-governmental organizations and its closure of the local office of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

However, delegates differed over keeping Burundi on its agenda, with Belgium’s representative cautioning that incidents along the country’s border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo could potentially destabilize the region. Given the ramifications of such an eventuality for the region, the Council must keep Burundi on its radar, he emphasized, expressing support for strong leadership by the East African Community and greater involvement by the African Union.

Concurring, United Kingdom’s representative emphasized that elections in 2020 will represent a critical time for Burundi, warning that failure to address human rights concerns will have consequences. Because of such factors, Burundi should remain on the Council’s agenda, he argued.

However, the Russian Federation’s representative stressed that Burundi’s elections are a domestic issue and outside meddling would be unacceptable. Underlining that the situation does not represent a threat to international peace and security, he said that his delegation wonders whether Burundi should remain on the Council’s already overloaded agenda.

Côte d’Ivoire’s representative called upon the international community to boost efforts to support East African Community initiatives with a view to revitalizing the inter-Burundian dialogue.

Burundi’s representative said the political landscape in his country remains positive, with the trajectory of peace, reconciliation and democracy flourishing. Peaceful and transparent elections, financed domestically, are the ultimate goal he said, adding that the situation on the security front remains calm, stable and completely under control. Recalling the African Union’s recent call for the lifting of unilateral sanctions, he called upon the Council to withdraw Burundi from its agenda, stressing that the political and security situation there represents no threat to international peace and security. A cascade of meetings on Burundi could jeopardize the gains already made, he cautioned.

Also speaking today were representatives of France, United States, South Africa, Indonesia, Germany, Peru, China, Poland, Dominican Republic, Kuwait and Equatorial Guinea.

The meeting began at 3:06 p.m. and ended at 5:12 p.m.

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