05/02/2002
Press Release
SC/7294



Security Council

4467th Meeting (AM)


PRESIDENT OF BURUNDI ASKS FOR CONTINUED SECURITY COUNCIL ASSISTANCE

TO END VIOLENCE, KEEP PEACE PROCESS ON TRACK


While Political Climate Has Improved,

Reconstruction, Ongoing Violence Pose Major Challenges


Burundi's President, Pierre Buyoya, this morning called on the Security Council to use its resources to compel the rebels in his country to give up violence, stressing that, if diplomatic efforts were not successful, other means would have to be taken to prevent the current peace process being held hostage.


Addressing the Council at a brief open meeting this morning, President Buyoya said that, while there was reason for hope in Burundi, there were still genuine challenges that could compromise the road to peace.


The first, he continued, was the continuing violence.  The peace process had been negotiated without a ceasefire.  Now that it had been signed, the rebellion and the violence still continued.  In light of that situation, he recommended another visit by the Council to Burundi to evaluate the situation on the ground.


The Burundian President said the second challenge was reconstruction of his country.  After eight years of crisis, the Burundian economy had suffered.  The

35 per cent of the population living in poverty in 1992 had nearly doubled to almost 60 per cent today.  Exports were down, arrears in payments were way behind and debt continued to be a major problem.  He appealed to the Council to heighten international awareness of the situation in Burundi so that substantial support would be given to the peace process.


He said that, recently in Geneva, donors had pledged almost $800 million to Burundi for the next three years.  Additional inputs, however, would also have to be made since repatriating refugees, resettling internally displaced persons and rebuilding infrastructure required more resources.


On the more positive side, President Buyoya said the political climate had improved considerably in his country, especially since the establishment of transitional institutions on 1 November 2001.  Of particular note was the establishment of a transitional Government.  In that Government, all the signatories and parties to the Arusha Agreement were represented, with the exception of one which did not wish to participate. 


According to the Burundian President, political leaders who had lived in exile for some 30 years had returned home, while refugees were coming back by the

hundreds every week.  All former political antagonists were now working side by side in the transitional Government. 


The meeting, which began at 9:38 a.m., was adjourned at 10 a.m.


Background


The Security Council met this morning to consider the situation in Burundi. It was expected to hear an open briefing by Burundi's President, Pierre Buyoya, and would then move to a private meeting.


Long-standing internal conflict in Burundi had led, in 1993, to a coup attempt in which the country’s first democratically elected President, a Hutu, and six ministers were killed.  Fighting between the largely Tutsi army and Hutu rebels followed, resulting in massive internal displacements of people and threatening to further destabilize the already-unstable region.  An estimated 200,000 people died in Burundi’s civil war.


Over the years, the United Nations has been actively involved in a good offices mission in Burundi.  A United Nations Office in Burundi was established in 1993 at the request of the Security Council, to support initiatives aimed at promoting peace and reconciliation in the country.  Despite all efforts by the international community, the peace process has made few strides, and the security and humanitarian situation has continued to deteriorate, although calls for the dismantling of government regrouping camps resulted in a commitment by the Government of Burundi to do so in January 2000, and the dismantling process had commenced by February of that year.


The Facilitator of the Burundi peace process, appointed by African heads of State, is former South African President Nelson Mandela.  In January 2000, the Secretary-General appointed Berhanu Dinka (Ethiopia) as his Special Representative for the Great Lakes region.


Intensive efforts by Mr. Mandela led to the signing of a Peace and Reconciliation Agreement on 28 August 2000 in Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania, by most of the parties.  Mr. Mandela, supported by the United Nations and by statements from the Security Council, has since made efforts to encourage those Burundi movements and groups that have not signed the Agreement to sign it.


The seventeenth regional summit on Burundi was held in Pretoria on

11 October.  The Government of Burundi and the members of seven opposition parties agreed on the legal framework for and the structure of the transitional Government, the composition of the Cabinet, the Senate and the transitional National Assembly.  The summit participants called for an impartial multinational presence in Burundi to serve as a confidence-building measure in support of the Arusha peace process, in general, and, in particular, the imminent inauguration of the interim Government of Burundi.  Following an announcement by the Government of South Africa that it would deploy a battalion in Burundi to serve as an interim protection force until an all-Burundi unit had been trained to take over the responsibility, the Council voiced its support for an interim multinational security presence in Burundi.


On 1 November, a power-sharing plan came into force that allows for a Hutu and Tutsi President to alternate at the helm of the country.  The first term will be for 18 months.  The two main Hutu rebel groups have rejected the Facilitator’s plan and have vowed to continue fighting the Tutsi-dominated army.


Meanwhile, the humanitarian suffering in Burundi has continued unabated. Hundreds of thousands have died as a result of the conflict between government and rebel forces, and the number of Burundian refugees had reached 500,000 and is growing.  More than 800,000 people -- 12 per cent of the population -- are internally displaced.


Statement by President of Burundi


PIERRE BUYOYA, President of Burundi, told the Council that his country had opted for peace through dialogue, since any other way would lead to a deadlock.  Advocating dialogue in a conflict situation was not always easy, but "we have a responsibility" to do that, he said.  “We have the moral force and political conviction to go forward and create conditions for a lasting peace in Burundi."


He said the political climate had improved considerably in his country, especially since the establishment of transitional institutions on 1 November 2001.  Of particular note was the establishment of a transitional Government.  In that Government, all the signatories and parties to the Arusha Agreement were represented, with the exception of one entity which did not wish to participate. 


According to the Burundian President, political leaders who had lived in exile for 30 years had returned home, while refugees were coming home by the hundreds every week.  All former political antagonists were now working side by side in the transitional Government, reason had prevailed, and political forces were now playing their role.  The Burundian population was also pleased to see the peace process brought home and working in their country.  Today, there was a compromise platform that took the concerns of all broadly into account.


Within the coming 18 months, he continued, there would be local elections followed by legislative elections.  After 36 months, presidential elections would also be held.  Negotiation and the signing of a ceasefire were crucial elements for hastening in the various reforms that had to be undertaken.  The proper functioning of institutions was also a guarantee for success.


He said that, while it was true that there was reason for hope, it was equally true that there were still genuine challenges that could compromise the road to peace.  The first was the continuing violence on the ground.  The peace process had been negotiated without a ceasefire.  Now that the ceasefire had been signed, the rebellion and the violence still continued in his country.


He expressed gratitude to the Security Council for their support to his country and their appeals to the rebels to lay down their arms.  Another visit by that body to Burundi to evaluate the situation on the ground would be particularly valuable.


He said the continuing violence in his country was a challenge both to the people and the Council.  He, therefore, reiterated his request for the Council to use its resources to compel the rebels to give up violence.  And, if diplomatic

means were not successful, other means would then have to be taken to prevent the peace process being held hostage.


The Burundian President said the second challenge was reconstruction of his country.  After eight years of crisis, the Burundian economy had suffered greatly.  The 35 per cent of the population living in poverty in 1992 had nearly doubled to almost 60 per cent today.  Exports were down, arrears in payments were way behind, and debt continued to be a major problem.  He appealed to the Council to heighten the international awareness of the situation in Burundi, so that substantial support would be given to the peace process.


He said that, recently in Geneva, donors had pledged almost $800 million to Burundi for the next three years.  He hoped those promises would be kept.  But additional inputs would also have to be made since operations for the repatriation of refugees, the resettlement of internally displaced persons, and the rebuilding of infrastructure required more resources.


In conclusion, he said that Burundi was also actively following the problems in the subregion.  Improving bilateral relations with its neighbours was a necessity, and his country was committed to doing just that.


* *** *