8550th Security Council Meeting: Situation in Burundi

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14-Jun-2019 02:08:46
Briefing Security Council on Burundi, Assistant Secretary-General voices concern over human rights, humanitarian situation at 8550th meeting.

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The Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Burundi is planning to return to East Africa for consultations alongside Uganda President Yoweri Museveni that will form the basis of the Secretary-General’s recommendations on the way forward in that country, Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support, told the Security Council today.

Burundi is focused on the 2020 elections, with the Independent National Electoral Commission raising public awareness of democratic values in pursuit of peaceful and credible polls, Mr. Fernandez-Taranco said. However, the human rights situation remains worrying, with many reported violations of fundamental civic and political freedoms. Rising prices are also having an impact, and while the humanitarian situation remains largely unchanged, recurrent climatic hazards are putting 1.8 million people at risk of food insecurity.

Recalling that the East African Community renewed the mandate of President Museveni as its mediator on Burundi, he reviewed a visit on 10 to 22 May by the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, Michel Kafando, to African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, countries of the subregion and Bujumbura, where he was unable to meet with the country’s authorities “due to their busy schedules”.

During his talks, the Special Envoy suggested three possible courses of action. They include a meeting of the guarantors of the Arusha Agreement to reaffirm its centrality to Burundi’s political stability; support to the African Union and the subregion in the context of the 2020 elections; and the continuation of the Joint Technical Working Group (East African Community, African Union and United Nations) in support of region-led efforts on Burundi, he said.

Smaïl Chergui, African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security, expressed regret over a deadlock to implementation of the Arusha Agreement and urged the Accords’ guarantors to set aside differences and achieve reconciliation. There is no alternative to intra-Burundi dialogue, he stressed. Turning to presidential elections in 2020, he said the preparation must be accelerated towards the holding of free, transparent polls. The elections should be a source of unity for the country and its people, rather than a cause for division.

Jürg Lauber (Switzerland), Chair of the Burundi Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, briefing the Council about his recent visit to the country, said that several opposition figures voiced concern over difficulties faced in assembling freely as well as measures imposed against foreign media outlets. He said he also heard concerns about alleged violent incidents and human rights violations that have not been properly investigated or prosecuted. Recalling that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Bujumbura was closed in February at the Government’s request, he nevertheless said the Minister for Human Rights, Social Affairs and Gender expressed Burundi’s readiness to engage with international human rights bodies.

In the debate that followed, some speakers were divided on whether Burundi should remain on the Council’s agenda. They also commented on human rights, humanitarian assistance, refugees and media freedoms, as well as the role of the East African Community and African Union going forward.

The representative of the United Kingdom expressed regret at the lack of progress in the inter-Burundian dialogue, adding that there is a real risk of violence, human rights violations and an escalation of the humanitarian crisis. Drawing attention to the Government’s revocation of the British Broadcasting Corporation’s operating license, he said the Council must remain seized of the situation. Similarly expressing disappointed at the lack of progress, the representative of the United States said reports of human rights violations are casting a shadow over electoral preparations.

Equatorial Guinea’s speaker, however, said a return to normalcy is under way. Pointing to Burundi’s participation in United Nations peacekeeping operations and its election to the African Union Peace and Security Council, she said the Council should consider removing the country from its agenda. In no way does the situation represent a threat to international peace and security, she said. Agreeing that the security situation is calm and stable, the representative of the Russian Federation said keeping the Council’s attention on Burundi is counterproductive. It only remains on the agenda as an excuse for the unreconciled opposition to complicate internal political processes, he said.

“Allowing for regional processes to unfold is a key factor in Africa owning solutions to its own problems and enduring peace,” said South Africa’s delegate, who emphasized the role of regional organizations in tackling the continent’s issues. As guarantor of the Arusha Agreement, South Africa always stands ready to support the Government and people of Burundi as they democratize their country, she stated.

Taking the floor at the end of the meeting, Burundi’s representative said that his country’s presence on the Council’s agenda is clearly due to political reasons and the narrow interests of external players. In no way does the situation in his country represent a threat to international peace and security. Burundi’s cooperation with the United Nations should focus on development, he said, demanding that foreign actors stop infantilizing Burundi’s people. Emphasizing that his country’s attention is focused on the elections and the National Development Plan, he said: “I hope this is the last time Burundi is discussed by the Security Council.”

Also speaking today were representatives of France, Belgium, Côte d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, China, Peru, Germany, Indonesia, Poland and Kuwait.

The meeting began at 3 p.m. and 5:09 p.m.

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