Burundi: Senior UN official urges steps towards political dialogue amid ongoing fragility

Taye-Brook Zerihoun, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, briefs the Security Council on the situation in Burundi. UN Photo/Kim Haughton

20 June 2017 – Amid Burundi's “fragile” security situation, marked by recent grenade attacks in the capital, Bujumbura, a senior United Nations political official told the Security Council today that regional actors and international partners must press for confidence-building measures that would be conducive for holding an inclusive and credible political dialogue in the country.

“Recent weeks have seen grenade attacks in the capital, and repression and intimidation by security forces and associated groups,” said Assistant Secretary-General Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, updating the Council on the situation in Burundi.

He said that the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), as well as human rights non-governmental organizations continued to report “targeted arrests, arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment of real or perceived opposition members and supporters, as well as extra-judicial killings and forced disappearances.”

Citing OHCHR, Mr. Zerihoun pointed out that incitement to hatred and violence have increased since April – with regular testimonies and video recordings of rallies by the Imbonerakure, the youth wing of the ruling CNDD-FDD.

He noted that the Government had not resumed interaction with OHCHR since it had suspended it in mid-October 2016 adding that the Commission of Inquiry on the human rights situation there regretted the lack of Government cooperation and access to the country.

“The Commission of Inquiry has collected more than 470 testimonies of human rights violations allegedly committed in Burundi since 2015,” to be presented in its final report to the Human Rights Council in September, Mr. Zerihoun said.

Given the current climate, implementation of proposals contained in a 12 May report of the National Commission for the Inter-Burundian Dialogue would likely lead to an escalation of the crisis, he said.

That report – which affirmed that a majority in Burundi supported a revision of the Constitution, a lifting of presidential term limits and changes to other provisions of the Arusha Agreement – had been denounced by opposition parties, as had the subsequent creation of a constitutional review commission.

Turning to other issues, he said the socioeconomic and humanitarian situations have also deteriorated.

“Three million people in Burundi are in need of humanitarian assistance. Nearly 2.6 million others experience acute food insecurity, with over 700,000 in need of emergency food assistance. Mass displacement continues, due to natural hazards, food insecurity and socio-political factors,” he explained.

Moreover, some 209,000 people are internally displaced. The number of Burundian refugees in neighbouring countries exceeds 400,000. Humanitarian actors have scaled up their response but have yet to reach the capacity required to meet emerging life-saving needs, he added.

Also briefing the Council, Jürg Lauber, of Switzerland, Chair of the Burundi Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, speaking via video link from Geneva, said the East African Community summit in Dar es Salaam was a key event that had demonstrated the importance of regional engagement, with Yoweri Museveni, President of Uganda and Chair of the Community, reiterating his personal commitment to the Community-led mediation and calling for resumed socioeconomic cooperation with Burundi.

The summit provided clarity on the direction of the mediation process. Mr. Mkapa, former President of Tanzania, had presented a proposal outlining a series of steps to overcome the current situation and create the preconditions for democratic elections in 2020, which was welcomed by member Heads of State and Government.


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