8652nd Security Council Meeting: Situation in Burundi

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30-Oct-2019 02:01:20
Peaceful, transparent elections crucial for creating stable future in Burundi, speakers tell Security Council, ahead of 2020 presidential, legislative polls at 8652nd meeting.

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Free, peaceful and transparent elections in 2020 are key to a stable future in Burundi, the Security Council heard today, as members diverged on whether the country — now emerging from its 2015 political crisis — still merits a place on the organ’s agenda.

Briefing on that topic were the senior United Nations official for Burundi, as well as the head of the Peacebuilding Commission’s configuration for the country. They joined Council members in examining progress by the Government in preparing for presidential, legislative and local elections — all planned for 2020 — as well as steps to stem the recent increase in reported human rights violations and infrastructure damage targeted at certain political parties. However, both reported a generally calm security situation on the ground.

Michel Kafando, Special Envoy of the Secretary‑General, cited a rise in political intolerance and infringements on civil and political rights. Welcoming the Government’s response, he nevertheless noted that the inter‑Burundian dialogue long sought by the international community has still not been implemented. Announcing his plan to step down as Special Envoy, he pledged the United Nations continued support, adding: “While we may not have won the battle for the dialogue in Burundi […] we have undoubtedly contributed to ensuring that those in power in the region have a greater awareness that stability in [the country] is a categorical imperative.”

Jürg Lauber (Switzerland), Chair of the Burundi configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, provided an overview of its engagement with that country, including a recent meeting with Minister for Foreign Affairs Ezéchiel Nibigira. Noting that preparations for the 2020 elections continue, he recalled that Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza has stated on several occasions that he will not stand as a candidate. Reports indicate that several opposition party politicians have returned to Burundi for discussions on their repatriation, and progress continues in line with the newly adopted electoral plan, known as the Kayanza Road Map. Among other things, he emphasized that the safe, voluntary and dignified return of thousands of Burundian refugees from neighbouring States will be crucial.

As Council members took the floor, many called on all stakeholders in Burundi to ensure a conducive climate for the conduct of successful elections and to work to prevent human rights violations. Some also urged the Government to give international observers unfettered access and to allow all parties to campaign without threats of reprisals or violence, while others welcomed the increasing tolerance being shown by Burundian authorities, as evidenced by the return of political exiles and refugees and the release of detainees.

France’s delegate declared: “The 2020 elections will be a critical milestone.” Only their free and fair convening will help Burundi move forward, he stressed, voicing concern over attacks on opposition political leaders and journalists, as well as acts of vandalism targeting opposition party headquarters. Calling on the Government to address those issues, along with other reported rights violations, he said the United Nations should remain seized of the matter and that the Council’s commitment to Burundi remains more crucial than ever.

Naledi Pandor, Minister for International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa and Council President for October, speaking in her national capacity, congratulated the Burundi Government on initiating preparatory processes for the upcoming elections and welcomed the current Head of State’s commitment not to stand as a candidate. She commended the country for its continued stable security situation and the Government’s decision to finance upcoming elections with the national budget. However, she joined other speakers in expressing grave concern about the country’s dire humanitarian situation, with nearly 1.8 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, and urged the Council to do more to alleviate socioeconomic challenges.

Among those delegates voicing scepticism over the Council’s continued involvement in Burundi — especially its electoral process — was the representative of the Russian Federation, who stressed that Burundi is advancing towards stabilization. The authorities continue to prepare for the 2020 elections, having adopted and now abiding by the electoral timetable. Urging the Government to press forward with such measures, he called on all parties to uphold Burundi’s sovereignty and rejected foreign interference in that country’s affairs — especially its elections. The Council’s close attention to Burundi is counterproductive, he said, calling for the country’s removal from the organ’s already busy agenda.

Echoing those points, Burundi’s delegate said that in his country, as elsewhere in the world, elections are an internal affair. Noting that Burundi has not had to rely on any outside financing, he said the Government is increasing its ownership over the election process and promises that it will be free, fair and transparent. With the exception of a handful of crimes that occur in many countries, the situation in Burundi remains peaceful and secure. Emphasizing that his country — whose situation poses no threat to international peace and security — does not warrant a place on the Council’s agenda, he warned that its arbitrary retention is setting a bad precedent for the organ’s future work.

Also speaking were the representatives of the United States, Equatorial Guinea, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Peru, China, Belgium, Poland, Côte d’Ivoire, Kuwait, United Kingdom and Germany.

The meeting began at 3:42 p.m. and ended at 5:44 p.m.

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