|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
5786th Meeting (AM)
CEASEFIRE AGREEMENT IN BURUNDI NOT FULLY IMPLEMENTED, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD
TODAY IN BRIEFING ON EVOLVING SITUATION, BUT POLITICAL LANDSCAPE IMPROVING
The September 2006 Comprehensive Cease-Fire Agreement between the Government of Burundi and the Palipehutu-FNL had not yet been fully implemented, the Facilitator of the peace process there told the Security Council this morning.
Briefing Council members, Charles Nqakula, also Minister of Safety and Security of South Africa, said that, despite the fact that the Palipehutu-Forces nationales de libération (FNL) had not participated in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme or the Joint Verification and Monitoring Mechanism -– due to deep mistrust between the Government and the movement, as well as to the “poisoned” political landscape in 2006 –- some 2,700 combatants had abandoned their positions and made themselves available for the disarmament programme. Help was needed to start and complete the process.
He said that, with the Facilitator’s assistance, the political situation in Burundi had improved. The President had met, one-on-one, with the Chairperson of the Palipehutu-FNL in June in the United Republic of Tanzania and agreement had been reached to reactivate the Joint Verification and Monitoring Mechanism, to release political prisoners and prisoners of war, and to continue communicating directly.
Although the majority of the Palipehutu-NFL membership had made themselves available for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process (some 800 had chosen not to abandon their positions), the international community seemed reluctant to support the process, as it could not be ascertained whether those who had made themselves available were genuine members of the movement. However, there were 2,700 people who were armed and needed to be fed. Otherwise, they could force villagers to feed them, he said. As there had been attacks on the ex-combatants, there was a possibility that the army of Burundi would have to interfere, and to allow that would be to allow for an “orgy of violence”.
It had been necessary, therefore, to take the people into the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration camps in order to protect them against attacks and also to prevent them from committing atrocities; a recurrence of violence in Burundi could not be allowed, Mr. Nqakula said.
He noted that there would be further regional meetings in an effort to meet the 31 December deadline to finalize the facilitation programme. He pleaded for United Nations assistance to oversee the disarmament and reintegration of the FNL, so that the facilitation programme could be successfully completed. There were a lot of child soldiers in the assembly camp, and it was the responsibility of the international community to remedy that situation. He urged everyone to come to the camps to see for themselves the children who had been forced to take up arms.
During the ensuing discussion, speakers commended the role played by the Facilitator, the Regional Initiative, the African Union and the United Nations Integrated Office in Burundi (BINUB). They also welcomed the assistance of the Peacebuilding Commission in Burundi’s recovery.
Stressing that a military solution was not an option, speakers expressed concern that, if the peace process was not properly concluded, new violence could erupt. Issues such as security guarantees for former combatants, their future role in security forces and that of the FNL should be addressed in that context. Strong support by regional and international partners was needed.
Council members urged the Palipehutu-FNL to return to the Joint Verification and Monitoring Mechanism and to refrain from violence. The movement’s leadership should return to Burundi to participate in a political dialogue, as only such a dialogue could achieve a sustainable solution and lay the foundation for recovery.
The representatives of France, Belgium, Ghana, Russian Federation, South Africa, Congo, Qatar, United States, China, Italy, United Kingdom, Peru, Slovakia, Panama and Indonesia took the floor, after which Mr. Nqakula addressed members’ comments and questions.
The meeting began at 10:18 a.m. and adjourned at 11:50 a.m.
The Security Council met this morning to consider the situation in Burundi.
CHARLES NQAKULA, Minister of Safety and Security of South Africa and Facilitator of the Burundi Peace Process, said that on 7 September 2006 a Comprehensive Cease-Fire Agreement had been signed between the Government of Burundi and the Palipehutu-Forces nationales de libération (FNL) -- the last rebel movement outside the democratization processes in Burundi. According to that Agreement, the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process should have started within 72 hours of signing. As that had not happened, there were now some Palipehutu-FNL combatants ready to submit to the process of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, but help was needed to start and complete the process.
He said one of the reasons the process had not begun was the distrust between the Government and the Palipehutu-FNL. However, the facilitation process had put in place some preparations, including for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration and the establishment of the Joint Verification and Monitoring Mechanism. The “poisoned” political landscape in Burundi had also been improved with the help of the facilitation process.
The President of Burundi had met, one-on-one, with the Chairperson of the Palipehutu-FNL in June, under the aegis of the President of Tanzania, he said. During that meeting, agreement had been reached to reactivate the Joint Verification and Monitoring Mechanism, to release political prisoners and prisoners of war, and to continue communicating directly.
Subsequently, he said, a split occurred within the Palipehutu-FNL. In August, some 2,700 combatants abandoned their positions and made themselves available for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme. However, that move had not been accepted by the opposition in a number of areas, including in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Consequently, some of them had been killed and beheaded. On 10 November, three leaders had been killed.
Continuing, he said that the Facilitator had approached the regional leadership for guidance. The Regional Initiative had told him that the Comprehensive Cease-Fire Agreement included a provision for the establishment of an African Union special task force for the protection of the Palipehutu-FNL members, in coordination with the United Nations.
He said that some 2,700 combatants had made themselves available for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, but some 800 members of the Palipehutu-FNL had not wanted to abandon their positions. The international community, however, was reluctant to be part of that process. One of the objections was that it could not be ascertained whether the people who had made themselves available were part of the Palipehutu-FNL.
However, there were 2,700 people who were armed and needed to be fed. Otherwise, they could force villagers to feed them, he said. As there had been attacks on the ex-combatants, there was a possibility that the army of Burundi would have to interfere, and to allow that would be to allow for an “orgy of violence”. It had been necessary, therefore, to take the people into the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration camps in order to protect them against attacks and also to prevent them from committing atrocities; a recurrence of violence in Burundi could not be allowed.
Another reason that the international community wanted no part of the process was the absence of the leadership of the Palipehutu-FNL, he said. The Facilitator, however, had constantly interacted with the leadership. On Friday, a two-day meeting would start in Tanzania between the leadership of the Palipehutu-FNL and the Government of Burundi.
He noted that there would also be further regional meetings in the effort to meet the 31 December deadline to finalize the programme, which the Facilitator was working hard to do. He appealed for help from the international community to process those who had come into the assembly areas. Despite renewed reports in the media that the leadership of the Palipehutu-FNL had denied that their people were in the assembly areas, and of their accusation that the mediation had fomented a split in the rebel organization, the mediation knew the situation on the ground -- the great majority in the assembly areas were from that rebel group.
With help from the international community, in coordination with the political directorate of the mediation, he said he wanted to resolve some of the political problems in the search for peace, which would be made more possible if the FNL leadership would come into Burundi for that purpose. He pleaded for United Nations assistance to oversee the disarmament and reintegration of the FNL, so that the facilitation programme could be successfully completed. There were a lot of child soldiers in the assembly camp, and it was the responsibility of the international community to remedy that situation. Everyone should come to the camps to see the children who were forced to take up arms.
JEAN-MAURICE RIPERT ( France) welcomed the efforts to bring the FNL into the peace process, adding his hope that the process would continue. The Facilitator’s testimony of child soldiers had touched him, and he pledged subsequent action. Dialogue must continue with the movement, and he declared his support for the renewal of the mandate of the United Nations Office in Burundi for that purpose and for the general support of peacebuilding in the country. He also welcomed the establishment of a Government of national unity and other progress towards peace.
JOHAN VERBEKE ( Belgium) said the agreement between the Government of Burundi and the Palipehutu-FNL must be effectively implemented in order for peace in Burundi to take hold. He welcomed the efforts of the regional leadership and the Facilitator to reinvigorate the peace process, but feared that, if the process was not properly concluded, new violence would erupt, with humanitarian consequences. It was necessary for the FNL to resume its place in the Joint Verification and Monitoring Mechanism. A military solution was not possible.
He expressed full support for the efforts of the Facilitator. The peace process should be re-launched within a politically comprehensive framework that addressed legitimate concerns of both parties. The issue related to security guarantees sought by the FNL, and defining the movement’s political future, should also be addressed. He called upon the leadership of the FNL to renew direct contact with the Government to address those issues. Belgium was prepared to respond to the invitation of the Facilitator to visit the camps.
LESLIE KOJO CHRISTIAN ( Ghana) commended the role of South Africa in the facilitation process and the country’s contribution of troops to the Special Task Force in Burundi. He emphasized the need for strong support by regional and international partners for the peace process. The establishment of the 2007 Government, in compliance with the peace agreement, was encouraging, and the flexibility shown by the Burundi Government should be commended.
He said that highest priority should be given to conclusion of the last phase of the peace process. Condemning the clashes between the military and Palipehutu-FNL forces, he said it was imperative for all parties, including the Palipehutu-FNL, to engage in a positive dialogue with the Government. Core issues to be addressed included inclusion of the FNL in the Government and the place of ex-combatants in the military forces. He urged the FNL to end its internal differences and join the peace process.
IGOR N. SHCHERBAK ( Russian Federation) said that the efforts of the Facilitator were crucial for the success of the peace process. Though the situation in Burundi was complex, he commended its Government and people for the progress they had made. The responsibility for strengthening the peace lay with the Burundian parties, which must continue their dialogue and fully implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. He called upon them to do that. He declared his support for the Council statement, prepared by France, to be made to the press.
BASO SANGQU ( South Africa) said that only political dialogue and reconciliation would guarantee a sustainable and lasting political solution in Burundi. South Africa would continue to do whatever it took to support the efforts of the Facilitator and his team as they undertook their responsibilities. The signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Government of Burundi and the Palipehutu-FNL had marked a significant milestone in the peace process and had contributed significantly to overall improvement in the security and political situation in that country.
Understandably, he continued, the Agreement had also brought hope to the people of Burundi, as there was general expectation of peace dividends. South Africa had been encouraged by the major breakthrough of bringing the Government and the Palipehutu-FNL to sign the Agreement, and it joined the call for the return of the FNL to the Joint Verification Mechanism, without delay or preconditions, and for all parties to fully implement that Agreement.
He encouraged the Security Council and the international community to act in unison in support of the Regional Initiative and its programmes, in particular, to support the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants, who were eager to be integrated. The international community should also exert pressure on the FNL to rejoin the peace process.
South Africa would continue to contribute to the African Union force currently deployed in Burundi, he added. His country was aware of the impending deadline of 31 December for the completion of the facilitation process and was confident that, after that deadline, the Regional Initiative and the African Union would reconsider the situation and take the appropriate decision on the way ahead.
LUC JOSEPH OKIO ( Congo) commended the Facilitator, the country and other countries in the subregion that were supporting the peace process in Burundi. He agreed with previous speakers that pressure must be put on the Palipehutu-FNL to get them to return to the Joint Monitoring Mechanism, without delay and without preconditions. The international community must pay close attention in that regard and must mobilize necessary resources for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. The deadline for finalization of that process should be taken into account in the context of the mobilization of resources.
He warned that a new outbreak of violence would have severe consequences for the region. For that reason, he strongly supported the call for aid to the peace process. He also declared his support for the press statement that had been prepared by France.
NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER ( Qatar) said that South Africa was playing an important facilitating role in Burundi. It was now time to rid Burundi of its long civil war. Thus far, the United Nations role had also been vital and should continue. Internal stability, however, could only be achieved through the cooperation of all the parties in the country. The current Government was making worthy efforts in that regard, but further dialogue was needed, while bolstering the Government’s authority.
He cautioned against the provision of money to the rebels, which could allow them to buy arms, and incur further human rights violations. The country needed funds for rebuilding, as well as for basic services. The Bretton Woods institutions should recognize those basic needs. In conclusion, he endorsed the Secretariat’s recommendation to extend the mandate of the United Nations Office in Burundi.
JEFFREY DELAURENTIS ( United States) called on the Palipehutu-FNL to return to the negotiating table, abstain from violence and implement its obligations under the Agreement with the Government of Burundi, by 31 December. He was encouraged by the Government’s offer of Government positions. Welcoming the establishment of the new Government, he said he trusted that the President and the new Vice-President would work together to face the country’s problems. He also welcomed the work of the African Union in providing support for the alleged Palipehutu-FNL dissidents, as well as the efforts of the Peacebuilding Commission.
DU XIACONG (China), saying he was “deeply impressed”, noted that, in recent years, the South African Government had called for unity on the African continent and for resolution of its problems. That country had facilitated the resolution of many conflicts, including the matter of Burundi. As a Council member, South Africa had called for strengthened cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union.
He expressed firm support for the peacebuilding process in Burundi. Although, under the Government’s leadership, reconstruction work was making progress, security challenges remained. He was concerned that the Comprehensive Cease-Fire Agreement had not been fully implemented, and called on all sides to bear in mind the interest of the country, to mitigate their differences and to take steps towards implementation of the Agreement. He expressed support for the efforts of the Facilitator and the regional partners, and called upon the international community to provide assistance to the Facilitator.
MARCELLO SPATAFORA ( Italy) commended the Facilitator for his outstanding contribution to the peace process. Burundi must become a success story for the United Nations; the Peacebuilding Commission had taken it on for that purpose. There was a lot at stake. He assured the Facilitator of the support of the international community, which he had requested. The Council’s press statement would urge the FNL to return to the verification mechanism and urge that nothing be done to restart violence. He asked the Facilitator what else the Council and its membership could do to assist the process.
JUSTIN MCKENZIE-SMITH (United Kingdom) associated himself with many of the comments already made and welcomed the huge efforts made by South Africa and its regional partners to bring Burundi to the verge of a sustainable peace. The opposition parties were now part of a new consensus Government. The Government and FNL should iron out their outstanding differences; a military solution would be a grievous backward step. He supported the statement to be made to the press, as prepared by France.
LUIS ENRIQUE CHAVEZ (Peru), acknowledging the efforts of South Africa and the African Union for peace in Burundi, said the peace process in that country was important as an example, and the Council wanted to ensure that it would be a successful example. He supported the work undertaken by the Peacebuilding Commission. The Comprehensive Cease-Fire Agreement had not yet created the necessary trust between the parties to establish dialogue and peace. Thus, greater efforts in the region should be made to ensure continuation of dialogue and creation of a climate of trust.
He said the Government should refrain from actions that would undermine positive interactions with the Palipehutu-FNL, and that group should refrain from violence. The FNL must also return to the Joint Verification and Monitoring Mechanism. The internal situation in the country was not contributing to the peace process. There was a need to establish an inclusive democratic system. Allowing opposition parties to participate and freedom of the press was also crucial.
DUSAN MATULAY (Slovakia), commending the efforts of the Facilitator and of the Regional Initiative, expressed concern that, two years after elections and one year after the signing the Agreement, there were still instances of open fighting. The international community should do all it could to prevent a relapse of hostilities.
He said that a sustainable solution could only be achieved through a political dialogue. There was an urgent need to observe the Comprehensive Cease-Fire Agreement. He called on the Government and the FNL to resume the peace process and create conditions for the country to recover from the conflict. He encouraged the Facilitator to continue his efforts.
ALFREDO SUESCUM ( Panama) thanked the Facilitator for his work, as well as that of the other international supporters of the peace in Burundi. He appealed to the members of the new national Government to work together for the future of their country. He called upon the Palipehutu-FNL to join the Joint Verification Monitoring Mechanism to ensure the rapid implementation of the Comprehensive Cease-Fire Agreement. He also called on the Government to redouble its efforts towards disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants, and dialogue. Human rights, in addition, must be assured. He supported the press statement to be issued.
MARTY NATALEGAWA ( Indonesia) also commended the Facilitator and others supporting the peace process in Burundi. He encouraged the parties to implement all the provisions of the peace agreement and the stakeholders to engage in dialogue and compromise. He encouraged the Government to continue security sector reform, as well as the process of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. Efforts must also be taken to stem the flow of arms. He reiterated his country’s support for the peace process.
Responding to questions and comments, Mr. NQAKULA expressed appreciation on behalf of himself, the African Union and the Regional Initiative for the constructive and supportive remarks made. He had heard an “all around” understanding for the need to complete the facilitation process. He wanted to ensure that the facilitation between the Palipehutu-FNL and the Government continued, but he also wanted to help the Government to overcome its difficulties with respectful advice.
He said that he would like to be part of every effort by the Peacebuilding Commission to create programmes for the development and democracy of Burundi and he asked to be invited to participate in discussions regarding Burundi. He called upon the world community to help him deal with the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process and with the political situation inside the country. He also called for continued pressure on the leadership of the Palipehutu-FNL.
Coming back to an issue that he said worried him greatly -– child soldiers –- he again appealed to the Council for assistance. He said he would leave the Council meeting confident that the international community would help with those early stages of Burundi’s recovery, and that further stages would be assisted through the attentions of the Peacebuilding Commission.
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