Burundi: UN electoral mission prepared to help country in ‘decisive’ return to peace

Cassam Uteem (left), Special Envoy and Head of UN Electoral Observation Mission in Burundi (MENUB) and Issaka Souna, MENUB Deputy chief, in Bujumbura at official launch of Mission’s work. January 2015 Photo: UNDP/Aude Rossignol

12 January 2015 – The United Nations Electoral Observation Mission in Burundi, known by its French acronym MENUB, officially launched its activities today in the capital of Bujumbura as the country prepares for critical elections to be held later this year amid an atmosphere of reconciliation.

“Dialogue can open the way for compromise and help lead to solutions for even the most difficult of problems,” the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy and MENUB chief, Cassam Uteem, said earlier this morning at a ceremony marking the Mission’s launch.

The UN Security Council set the creation of MENUB in motion in February 2014 following the Burundi Government’s request for a UN-backed electoral observer mission before, during and after presidential, parliamentary and local polls, scheduled between May and September 2015.

“We would also encourage the Government to continue the dialogue begun in March 2013 and reassure all those who wish to take part in the electoral process that they will face no obstacles,” continued Mr. Uteem, as he called on all stakeholders to respect the outcome of the upcoming elections.

The UN official reminded those gathered – among which were former Government officials, representatives of institutions and members of civil society – that the election would affect all Burundians and called on the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) to take “appropriate measures” to ensure the polls’ smooth running while also widening participation in the electoral process to all eligible people. In addition, he welcomed CENI’s organization of workshops aimed at monitoring voting registration and potential irregularities.

The Mission replaced the UN Office in Burundi (BNUB), which was set up in 2006 following a ceasefire between the Government and the last remaining rebel forces to support peace consolidation, democratic governance, disarmament and reform of the security sector.

Burundi was the first country, along with Sierra Leone, to be put on the agenda of the UN Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), which was also established in 2006, to ensure that countries once ravaged by war do not relapse into bloodshed.

The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy acknowledged that the Mission was in Burundi to help ease the country towards a long-standing peace based on a legitimate democratic process, and he urged the international community to also remain committed to helping the Burundian people, so the country may “decisively turn towards peace and spend most of its resources on the only battle that needs to be fought – that of development and the eradication of poverty.”

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