As blue helmets prepare to leave Burundi, UN officials pledge continued support

20 December 2006 – With the United Nations Operation in Burundi (ONUB) ending its mandate on 31 December, officials from the world body today pledged continued support to the country as it seeks to consolidate peace.

Since the mission was first deployed in 2004, the Central African country has held its first democratic elections in 12 years, installed a new national Government, and disarmed and demobilized nearly 22,000 combatants.

“The continued engagement and commitment of both the Security Council and the Secretary-General have been crucial to ONUB’s success,” said Nureldin Satti, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Burundi.

He paid tribute to all those who made this achievement possible. “We were able to carry out our mandate thanks to the support of the Burundian people, our Great Lakes Region neighbours, and the international community.”

Speaking at a press briefing in New York, Mr. Satti said, “I leave with the feeling that the national identity has been further reaffirmed and people refer to themselves more as Burundians than along ethnic lines. And for me this is the biggest reason to hope that Burundi will make it.”

Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support Carolyn McAskie, who previously served as the world body’s top envoy in Burundi, noted that although most blue helmets are leaving, the new UN Integrated Office in Burundi (BINUB) will continue the process of peace consolidation.

The Office, to be headed by the Secretary-General’s Executive Representative, Youssef Mahmoud, will also be in charge of coordinating the UN system’s activities in Burundi for an initial period of one year.

Ms. McAskie emphasized the importance of this continued assistance. “Burundi has come a long way from its darkest days of conflict but there is still a long way to go,” she said. “It is critical that the international community support the country now as it moves past this fragile post-conflict stage towards long term and sustainable development, based on a broad commitment to peace.”

BINUB’s proposed responsibilities include support for demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants and reform of the security sector as called for by the 7 September Comprehensive Ceasefire Agreement.

In addition, the Office will promote and protect human rights and measures to end impunity through a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Special Tribunal, while backing efforts to reduce poverty.

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