|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
5966th Meeting* (AM)
RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN BURUNDI, INCLUDING CESSATION OF HOSTILITIES, POSITIVE,
BUT PEACE PROCESS STILL FACES SIGNIFICANT CHALLENGES, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD
Peacebuilding Commission’s Review of Strategic Framework Highlighted;
Burundi Says ‘Decisive Point’ Reached; Country Needs Support, Understanding
There had been several positive developments in Burundi, including the cessation of hostilities, but the peace process still faced significant challenges requiring a national willingness for compromise, and regional and international support that was coordinated and robust, the Security Council was told this morning.
Briefing the Council on behalf of Anders Liden, the new Chairman of the Burundi Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission and Permanent Representative of Sweden to the United Nations, was Ulla Strom, of the Swedish Mission. She said that the landmark 23 June biannual review of the Strategic Framework for Peacebuilding, undertaken by the Peacebuilding Commission and Government of Burundi, had resulted in concrete recommendations for all relevant stakeholders on several issues.
She noted that those recommendations had included implementation of the Comprehensive Ceasefire Agreement between the Government and the Palipehutu-FNL, security, justice and the promotion of the rule of law, land reform, socio-economic recovery and the gender dimensions of peacebuilding.
In the area of good governance, the biannual review had focused on creating the conditions for free and fair elections in 2010, she said. The elections represented a milestone for the consolidation of democracy and peace in Burundi. The review had recommended that a revised draft legal framework for the elections reflecting Burundi’s political reality should be presented to the National Assembly by December 2008. The Peacebuilding Commission had also called on all political parties to promote constructive dialogue, adhere to the electoral code of conduct, and respect the democratic principles enshrined in the Constitution.
She said that the review meeting had also stressed that the establishment of the National Independent Electoral Commission was essential for the preparation of the elections and had recommended that the Commission should be operational by the first half of 2009. In that regard, she was happy to note the 18 June presidential decree establishing a permanent National Independent Electoral Commission. She also encouraged the Government to consider soliciting support from the international community, including the United Nations, in preparations for and conduct of the next elections.
In the last few weeks, the Burundian Government had demonstrated a commitment to follow up on those recommendations, she said, adding that the Peacebuilding Commission stood ready to provide continued support for the 2010 elections, including in the development of a road map for their preparation.
She said that the biannual review had stressed the importance of implementing the 2006 ceasefire agreement between the Government and the Palipehutu-FNL, in accordance with the timeframes outlined in the revised programme of action to take forward the Burundi peace process. The return of the Palipehutu-FNL leader, Agathon Rwasa, to Bujumbura, the signing of the Magialesburg agreement on 11 June, and the meeting between President Nkurunziza and Mr. Rwasa on 18 August had been important steps forward. That positive momentum must be seized upon and every effort should be made to finalize implementation of the ceasefire accord by the end of the year, well in advance of the 2010 elections, in order to avoid the convergence of those two critical processes.
The successful implementation of that accord would be a vital step towards peace consolidation, she said, stressing that it would enable the country and its partners to focus on other critical challenges, including combating poverty, security sector reform, good governance, democratic consolidation and the fight against impunity. The Peacebuilding Commission would continue to support the Government in mobilizing adequate resources to meet those challenges.
She said that Sweden, together with other members of the Burundi Configuration, would continue to build on the excellent initiatives undertaken by the previous chair, Norway, under the untiring leadership of Ambassador Johan Lovald. She commended the Government and all national stakeholders for their constructive engagement in implementation of the Strategic Framework and the first biannual review. She also thanked the United Nations Integrated Office in Burundi for ably assisting the Peacebuilding Commission and the Government.
Providing an assessment of the situation, Burundi’s Permanent Representative Augustin Nsanze said a great deal had been accomplished in terms of good governance and more specifically on the aspects of democratic good governance, with “various ups and downs”. Often, Burundians had had to “hold our breath”, particularly when institutions had found themselves at a stalemate. Today, however, Parliament was functioning normally and the Government was less divided. The political party in power had been reconstructed and it had once again taken its role as the unquestioned leader. The opposition was playing its part, without endangering democratic institutions.
In one great step forward, a workshop had been held last week in the centre of the country on a framework for dialogue among the political parties, he continued. For the first time, as Burundi moved down the road, a genuine and frank dialogue had taken place, involving 34 political parties freely gathered there. Participation had been most active and enthusiastic, and the participants had requested that that framework be ongoing. They had proposed a specific checklist, if the framework for dialogue became permanent. The political parties were committing themselves to deal with amendments to the Constitution, a law on political parties, an electoral code and other legislative items vital to the citizens of Burundi.
In addition, he said, the participants intended to provide updates on the status of the opposition and to rewrite the country’s history, in order to make it inclusive of all citizens. In sum, the workshop had laid the foundations for a harmonious vision of a future that could reassure the citizens and ensure that the 2010 elections would take place in a climate of social and political tranquillity. The major missing party was the Palipehutu-FNL, which had not yet been recognized as a political party. The leaders of that group had returned to the country last May and the head of that movement had been a guest of honour at the forty-sixth anniversary of the country’s national independence on 1 July.
Following negotiations continued on 18 August, Burundi’s President, Pierre Nkurunziza, received the leader of the Palipehutu-FNL. It was agreed that the President would meet the leader whenever necessary, so that all issues would be resolved through dialogue, he said. All of the parties to mediation were to be involved at each meeting, so that appropriate responses could be found to any and all issues. The President signed a decree on that day, 18 August, providing legal status for the dissidents of that movement, who had deserted after the ceasefire accord was signed in September 2006. The President signed another decree on 19 August creating a technical commission to verify the status of dissent. It would work under the national commission for demobilization and reintegration.
Issues of a political nature were still outstanding, he continued. For example, the Palipehutu-FNL continued to refuse to change its name, in defiance of the Constitution, which forbade any political entity with ethnic connotations. Moreover, the Palipehutu-FNL was insisting on a 50 per cent power-sharing arrangement, which was “utterly unrealistic”. Negotiations must be conducted with restrict respect for the Constitution. Delays in regrouping the fighters and their requirements for political negotiations must be monitored, so they did not compound other delays and affect targets, such as the 31 December deadline for the integration of Palipehutu-FNL into State institutions.
Once again, he underlined that Burundi, more than ever, needed the international community’s support and understanding; understanding above all, because solutions to political and military issues were not always found overnight. That required various stages, “lest we find ourselves putting the cart before the horse, which could only spawn other problems”. The President and Government were doing all they could to ensure the success of talks with the Palipehutu-FNL, but those talks required international support to ensure that the latter did not continue to engage in polemics or “set traps”, at a time when the country’s entire population hoped for peace and development.
Turning to the second tier of the strategic plan for peacebuilding, namely, the rule of law within security forces, he said the results had been insufficient in the context of reintegrating former fighters into society. The availability of weapons and feeling of insecurity were still widespread, and security forces were not always viewed as acting in the best interests of the population. Some progress had been made, but new problems had also emerged. Today, demobilization of the Palipehutu-FNL fighters was imperative. Those of other armed forces had also not been concluded. The Government had continued to state forcefully that even those demobilized individuals were a “time bomb”, as long as their living standards did not improve. In that area, Burundi needed the support of its bilateral and multilateral partners.
On strengthening of justice, advancement of human rights, national reconciliation and the struggle against impunity, he said that the most glaring problems were those of strengthening the capacities of the administration of justice, the functioning of an effective transitional justice system, the creation of an independent human rights commission, and the launching of the truth and reconciliation commission. In all of those areas, some donors had already been active, but the needs were “still huge”. So, thought must be given to other donors, if the edifice being built was to be fully constructed. Another urgent issue concerned the management of land ownership. The traditional system seemed to have been pushed to its limits. More than 80 per cent of all cases before the tribunals were linked to land disputes and lawsuits; those settlements were the basis of the growing crime rate. Implementations of land reform would also require funds beyond the Government’s ability to collect.
In conclusion, he said the Government and people of Burundi were involved in outstanding efforts deserving of support. Travelling about the country, one could see the construction of primary and secondary schools, and the reforestation of mountaintops. The country now was at a decisive point. The World Bank had suspended 92 per cent of the country’s debt, but that was not sufficient, as Burundi required ongoing fiscal support. He called on the development partners, particularly those that had made commitments during the May 2006 roundtable, to honour their pledges. As of now, only 30 per cent of those had been disbursed, and solely in the peacebuilding framework; pledges for social and economic recovery and advancement were still lagging.
The meeting began at 10:16 a.m. and was adjourned at 10:50 a.m.
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For information media • not an official record