Burundi political infighting could derail country’s peacebuilding efforts – UN official

The Security Council meets on the situation in Burundi. UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz

14 May 2014 – The political situation in Burundi remains tense with limited political space not conducive to protection of human rights, a United Nations envoy today told the Security Council today, warning that as the country approaches elections in 2015, there is a possibility of violence.

“In the approach of the election period, there is a propensity to political violence and confrontation between youths affiliated with political parties, reflecting the deleterious political climate,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, told the 15-member Council.

“To prevent exacerbation, we particularly recommended that the authorities intensify efforts to promote better political governance through dialogue and tolerance, while putting an end to impunity,” he continued, adding that it is also an urgent need to reduce the illicit flow of weapons into the small Central African country.

Mistrust that divides the Burundian political class is still manifesting itself in the negotiations and the adoption of the law in April that established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said Mr. Onanga-Anyanga.

The law aims to investigate events in the largely inter-ethnic fighting between Hutus and Tutsis that erupted even before Burundi gained independence from Belgium in 1962.

“It is unfortunate that the passage of this important legislation to implement mechanisms of transitional justice has not [led to] overcoming the partisan divide,” he said, warning that the commission’s credibility and long-term prospects for reconciliation hang in the balance.

Burundi has been considered a UN peacebuilding success story. It was among the first, along with Sierra Leone, to be put on the agenda of the UN Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) when it was set up in 2006, to ensure that countries once ravaged by war do not relapse into bloodshed.

The UN Office in Burundi (BNUB) was set up in 2006 following a ceasefire between the Government and the last remaining rebel force to support peace consolidation, democratic governance, disarmament and reform of the security sector. Last month, the Council agreed that BNUB would wrap up at the end of this year, and transition to a UN country team (UNCT).

“In many ways, this is an historic moment, as it marks the beginning of the end of a stand-alone UN political presence in Burundi, in order to focus on development activities through a strengthened UNCT,” Mr. Onanga-Anyanga said, lauding the completion of a Joint Transition Plan presented today to the Council.

He said he also remains optimistic that despite the “disturbing facts mentioned here”, the Burundian people and Government would “overcome their differences and address, together common challenges.”

He urged calm and stressed that the country has all the assets to build a rich future “provided they finally turn back the demons of exclusion and violence.”


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