BURUNDI SITUATION `PRECARIOUS', STEPS NEEDED TO STRENGTHEN PEACE PROCESS SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD DURING DAY-LONG DEBATE ON CRISIS
BURUNDI SITUATION `PRECARIOUS', STEPS NEEDED TO STRENGTHEN PEACE PROCESS SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD DURING DAY-LONG DEBATE ON CRISIS
BURUNDI SITUATION `PRECARIOUS', STEPS NEEDED TO STRENGTHEN PEACE PROCESS SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD DURING DAY-LONG DEBATE ON CRISIS19991112
The situation in Burundi was precarious and the United Nations must take steps to see that the Arusha peace process continued, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahima Fall told the Security Council this morning, as it began a day-long open debate on the crisis in Burundi.
The survival of Burundi's political partnership was threatened, he continued. Positions had hardened, and opposing camps approached the Arusha partnership differently. They were no longer on the same wavelength with respect to the guidelines of the process. This in turn might impact the next round of the negotiations and defer further the final signing of a possible Arusha agreement.
Continuing, he said the health situation was one of the worst on the continent: 20 per cent of the children suffered from malnutrition; 35,000 were orphaned because of AIDS, and many children were not attending primary school. He drew attention to the dangers of a potential famine due to drought and the difficulties of getting to the land. The uncertain security situation must be remedied so that humanitarian personnel could bring help to the people of Burundi, he emphasized.
The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania said his Government had no interest in supporting armed attacks against Burundi or harbouring, training or arming its opponents. He rejected all such allegations and challenged the Burundi authorities to provide proof of its allegations. His country was determined to honour its international obligations relating to the hosting of refugees and, together with the region, to strive for peace in Burundi. "Their peace is also our peace", he said.
Canada's representative said the continuing violence and instability in Burundi had had dramatic consequences for its civilian population and for the subregion as a whole. The humanitarian situation in Burundi remained grim. He expressed concern about reports of refugees fleeing the fighting between rebels and Government forces -- more than 300,000 refugees from Burundi in the United Republic of Tanzania and 800,000 internally displaced persons within Burundi itself. Meanwhile, wider instability in the region impaired peace efforts in Burundi, and reports of the destabilizing presence in Burundi of Interahamwe and ex-Rwandan Armed Forces from the Democratic Republic of the Congo were troubling.
Security Council - 1a - Press Release SC/6753 4067th Meeting (AM & PM) 12 November 1999
The European Union and associated States were particularly concerned about the recent forced removals by the Burundi army of some 300,000 civilians in the countryside near Bujumbura, Finland's representative said. It deplored the violation of human rights, loss of life and destruction of property that had been the hallmark of the operation. The Government of Burundi must halt the policy of forced removals and allow the people to return to their homes as quickly as possible. Until then, it must provide the people with better living conditions.
Burundi's representative said his Government had decided to regroup the population of rural Bujumbura into protection areas, following a worsening of violence in certain areas. The policy was intended to save populations caught between fighting. The regroupment was not forced, as some said. Rather, it responded to real concerns of the population, and was the Governments duty. It was a painful operation, but if offered hope. He added that his Government had persistently advocated inclusive negotiations. The armed factions, who felt they had been left out of the Arusha negotiations, must be involved. A lasting solution was a political solution.
He cautioned that if the international community were not watchful, the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo could affect the entire region. Rebels were now in collusion with genocidal Rwandan elements - the Interahamwe and ex-members of the Rwandan army -- and had begun to move towards Burundi again, having acquired an arsenal of weapons.
Speakers today paid tribute to the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, and stressed the importance of continuing the Arusha process, of which he had been facilitator. Namibia's representative said the parties should resolve the question of a successor to Mr. Nyerere to fill the vacuum caused by his untimely death. Gambia's representative said the ideal choice for a new facilitator would be a former African Head of State agreeable to the Burundian parties. Similarly, Argentina's representative stressed that States of the region, with the United Nations, must choose a new mediator -- an African personality of prestige who was acceptable to all parties.
Also, speakers emphasized that the ceasefire agreement signed in Lusaka between the parties to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo must be implemented. Peace in Burundi was not likely to last in the absence of regional stability. At the same time, social and economic development were other key factors in determining Burundi's peaceful future. The support of the international community was crucial.
Statements were also made today by the representatives of Russian Federation, United States, United Kingdom, Bahrain, France, Brazil, Gabon, Malaysia, Netherlands, Slovenia, Norway.
The meeting began at 11:43 a.m., suspended at 1 p.m., resumed at 3:10 p.m. and adjourned at 4:17 p.m.
Council Work Programme
The Security Council met this morning in open debate to consider the situation in Burundi.
Concern over the deterioration in Burundis political and security situation was heightened by the death in October of former President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere, who was the facilitator for the Arusha peace talks. At the request of the Secretary-General, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Kieran Prendergast, travelled to the region to discuss with the leadership of Burundi, the United Republic of Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe and South Africa, the situation in Burundi and to get an understanding of their assessment of the situation, the prospects for the peace talks and to find out what the United Nations could do to keep it on track.
On 12 October, two United Nations staff members were killed in Burundi in a road ambush. They were part of a multi-agency team carrying out an assessment of humanitarian needs in a displaced persons camp. On 14 October, Under-Secretary- General for Humanitarian Affairs Sergio Vieira de Mello travelled to Burundi to meet with Burundi officials, representatives of the United Nations agencies, donors and non-governmental organizations based in the country. The main issues addressed included the need to halt the forced displacement of the population, and to establish conditions for the immediate return to their homes; and the need to adopt urgent measures to guarantee the safety of humanitarian personnel operating in Burundi. The Under-Secretary-General also highlighted the impact of the murder of the two United Nations staff on efforts to reverse the poor response of the consolidated appeals process for Burundi and the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Thus far, the appeal process is 22 per cent funded.
In recent days, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had reported that more Burundi refugees were fleeing violence and forced displacement in the southern provinces of Burundi. They were arriving in the western region of the United Republic of Tanzania at the rate of more than 500 people per day.
IBRAHIMA FALL, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said the internal situation in Burundi was still disturbing. The political partnership in Burundi was facing difficulties which threatened its survival. Positions had hardened, recalling the situation that had prevailed earlier. Two opposing camps approached the Arusha partnership differently. The first camp wanted the talks to take place outside of the United Republic of Tanzania. The other camp claimed the first camp was seeking to divide the parties and to continue the status quo. They were no longer on the same wavelength with respect to the guidelines of the process. It might impact the next round of the negotiations and defer further the final signing of a possible Arusha agreement.
He said the situation was worsened by the uncertain security situation. Bujumbura had been attacked more than 20 times in the last weeks and there had been attacks and ambushes in various regions. In addition, many Burundis were leaving for the United Republic of Tanzania where they would add to the over 200,000 refugees already there.
The policy of forced regrouping of population affected thousands of people. The Government maintained they had no other option to protect civilians and to block the rebels. He said they wanted to bring peasants back to their land, but the situation in the camps created real concerns. The health and food situation was deplorable. In fact, here was no food. There was little information about most camps, because of insecurity or because of their location. It was to just those people who had been regrouped into the camps that assistance had stopped. Projects financed though the United Nations had also been stopped. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) had drawn the international communitys attention to the dangers of a famine because of drought and the difficulties of getting to the land.
Continuing, he said the health situation was one of the worst on the continent, with 20 per cent of the children suffering from malnutrition, 35,000 orphaned because of AIDS and many children not going to primary school. The situation of insecurity must be remedied so that humanitarian personnel could bring help to the people of Burundi.
He said Burundi had requested assistance in choosing a new facilitator. A new level of mediation must be established early. There was consensus that negotiations continue on the basis of what had already been achieved through Arusha. The situation was precarious and the United Nations must take steps to see that the process continued. Mr. Prendergast was currently in South Africa. His mission would end on 16 November, after which he would brief the Secretary-General and the Council.
MARC NTETURUYE (Burundi) said his Government highly appreciated the United Nations commitment to peace in his country, which had been afflicted by recurring violence since independence, and in particular since 1993. He said that rather than providing background on the countrys ills, he would focus on the main concerns of the present. There had been real progress in the peace process, even though timetables set by the Government and the facilitation process had not been respected. The conflict was so complex, and with such bitterness, that peace would be a slow process. The death of the facilitator slowed the progress of the peace process, and the Government had requested, in a letter to the Secretary-General, that a new facilitator be selected as soon as possible. It hoped to be involved in that process.
The different Burundian parties, the States in the region, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the United Nations were all invited to act promptly, he continued. The new facilitator would promptly tackle the problems. To meet the challenge, the Burundians must be and were the primary parties concerned. The armed factions, which felt they were left out of the Arusha negotiations, must also be involved. The Government has always advocated inclusive negotiations. The hostilities must end, to create a climate for negotiators. A lasting solution was a political situation.
Regarding the security situation, he said it was fairly normal, with the exception of rural Bujumbura, where ambushes were still occurring, and with the exception of the provinces in the south-east, he said. Since the start of the crisis, his Government had been drawing attention to the contribution of bordering countries. Rebels were now in collusion with genocidal Rwandan elements - the Interahamwe and ex-members of the Rwandan army -- and had begun to move towards Burundi again, having now acquired an arsenal of weapons. If the international community was not watchful, the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo could affect the entire region.
He said his Government had decided to regroup the population of rural Bujumbura in protection areas, he said. That decision had followed a worsening of violence in certain areas, and was intended to save populations caught between fighting. The regroupment was not forced, as some said. Rather, it responded to real concerns of the population, and was the Governments duty. If it failed to do so, it would have been accused of condemning those populations. It was a provisional measure, which had proven effective in other provinces, which were now in a state of security. Regroupment was a painful operation, but if offered hope.
The Government, with its limited means, had requested international assistance, but that was now jeopardized by the application of phase IV, which limited the movement of humanitarian groups in the country, following the murder of two United Nations workers in the south of the country.
Protection of humanitarian workers was a real concern of his Government; it was currently engaged in discussions with those involved as to the best way to offer protection. A legal commission had been established to investigate the murder of the two United Nations workers, and the Council would be kept promptly informed of its findings, which were expected by 30 November.
On the economic and social situation, he said it was deplorable. Inflation was striking the poorest and there was reason to fear social upheaval that could destroy the peace process hopes. The Government had presented a compromise text to the parties. Such efforts for political partnership for peace deserved support. The solution to Burundi's situation would come from the country itself, but it also required the support of the international community to help Burundis themselves find the solutions that suited them.
VLADIMIR SERGEEV (Russian Federation) said he was disturbed over the actions of extremists in October that had caused the deaths of United Nations workers. He called for the return to internal peace and security by peaceful means. He was disturbed over the continuing practice of forced regrouping. The use of terrorist tactics was inadmissible. He called on all sides to refrain from violence. The continuing tense situation required measures to encourage talks among all involved, but the primary responsibility lay with the Burundi people themselves.
He hoped the leaders of countries in the region would take decisions that would lead to a settlement of the crisis, he said. There was real potential for settlement. The United Nations should decide on an international facilitator acceptable to all the Burundi parties. The violence in the country must come to a halt. In the long run, it would be best to have a signed valid document.
SHEN GUOFANG (China) said the Arusha peace negotiations had come to a stalemate, complicated by the death of President Nyerere. The United Nations had reduced its participation. He was concerned that the tragic Rwanda massacre would be repeated. The United Nations and Security Council should learn from the lessons of the past and take timely measures to promote the peace process, before a point of no return was reached. He supported the effort to restart the peace process. He appreciated the contributions made by the international community to that end. He reiterated that a negotiated political settlement was the only way to restore peace and reconciliation. The various parties should cease hostilities and return to the negotiation table.
He called on the international community and donor countries to be more generous in its contributions. The Chinese Government would support the peace process in Burundi within its means. The Great Lakes region had always been ridden with disaster and genocide. The international community must commit to settling unrest in the region as a whole.
FERNANDO ENRIQUE PETRELLA (Argentina) said all parties should find a peaceful and inclusive solution that protected peoples rights and aspirations. He associated himself with the comments made by the Assistant Secretary-General. Attacks on civilians must stop immediately. He expressed concern at the forced displacement of the rural population being undertaken by the Government. Partnership between the Government and the National Assembly, and the Arusha process must be deepened, or political space might be taken over by extremists and moderate forces would be marginalized.
States of the region, with the United Nations, must choose a new mediator - an African personality of prestige and acceptable to all parties, he said. He valued the Governments renewed commitment to achieve a negotiated solution.
The humanitarian situation was of utmost concern, he said. The international community must act generously. Another subject of constant concern was the situation of United Nations and humanitarian personnel. Their safety must be guaranteed by all parties. He condemned the 12 October attacks and trusted that the investigation by the Government would make it possible that those responsible be brought to justice.
The causes of the conflict were complex, he said. Economic assistance must be resumed. Peace and democratic institutions would be strengthened by consolidation of the rule of law in every country in the Great Lakes. The regions problems were not exclusively political. That was why his delegation supported Frances proposal for a conference on the region.
NANCY SODERBERG (United States) said the United States was gravely concerned over delays in the Burundi peace process. Attacks on civilian targets and the suffering of civilians had increased. Hard-liners were trying to derail the broad- based negotiating process that offered the best hope for peace. There was a sizeable constituency for peace and the Council must use the opportunity to ensure the peace process went forward. The peacemakers were to be commended for their goodwill.
Counter-insurgency efforts now included the "regroupment" of 340,000 people near the capital, she said, which was a major human rights violation and a matter of serious humanitarian concern. She shared the shock and grief of the international community over the deaths of a United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) staff member and a staff member from the World Food Programme (WFP), which had dealt a severe blow to humanitarian efforts. Some agencies had suspended operations, she noted, and the United States urged those responsible for the killings be brought to justice.
The Council should endorse the immediate resumption of the pace process under the late Julius Nyerere's successor and should condemn the violence that undermined the negotiations, she said. In Mr. Nyerere's memory, the Council must commit itself to peace in the region. The United Nations must reassert its leadership in protecting individual rights and provide guidance and direction for non- governmental organizations operating in Burundi. However, United Nations field operations should not resume without the necessary security guidelines. It was essential that all sides in the conflict respect the neutrality, freedom of movement and security of United Nations and humanitarian workers.
The United States urged the Council to call for a resumption of negotiations with a facilitator acceptable to all parties that have accepted the peace process. It urged that the Arusha peace process be affirmed as the basic framework within which all-party negotiations should take place, while recognizing that a flexible, efficient approach acceptable to all Burundi parties best served the process. It should condemn continuing violence and appeal to all warring parties to join negotiations, and affirm the need for regional States to do everything possible to halt cross-border insurgent activity and assure that refugee camps were not used to train or resupply insurgents. The Council should also call for the dismantling of the regroupment camps, and demand full and unhindered access for international humanitarian workers, and for human rights observers, while that was done. And it should recognize Burundi's desperate economic situation and call for expanded economic assistance and for help to be delivered as soon as possible.
ROBERT R. FOWLER (Canada) said the continuing violence and instability in Burundi had had dramatic consequences for its civilians population and for the subregion as a whole. The Arusha peace process had remained the best hope to ending that violence and instability. That process, however, had suffered a serious setback with the death of its facilitator, Julius Nyerere, who had made a valuable contribution to the search for peace and national reconciliation.
He said his country welcomed the appointment of Ayita Jean-Claude Kpakpo as the new senior United Nations advisor to the facilitator of the Burundi peace process, who should be identified soon. A further enhancement of the United Nations role in the Burundi peace process might also be warranted. In that respect, his country encouraged the Secretary-General to consider nominating a special representative to Burundi to support the peace process and to contribute to humanitarian coordination.
The humanitarian situation in Burundi remained grim, he said. His country was deeply concerned by reports on the number of Burundi refugees fleeing continuing fighting between rebels and government forces. The UNHCR staff in the United Republic of Tanzania had registered 7,000 new Burundi refugees in October, and 2,650 in the first week of November. Those were in addition to approximately 300,000 refugees from Burundi already resident in the United Republic of Tanzania and 800,000 internally displaced persons within Burundi itself.
Continuing, he said there was no reason to believe those refugee flows would subside anytime soon. Further increases in their numbers in the United Republic of Tanzania could feed growing tensions with the local population. He was also deeply concerned at reports of the forced displacement of Burundi civilians into camps in Bujumbura where access by humanitarian personnel was restricted and the population lacked access to adequate water, food and shelter.
The human rights situation was also cause for concern, he said. The report of the Special Rapporteur on Burundi to the Commission on Human Rights noted massacres, disappearances, and arbitrary arrests and detention. He called upon all parties to the conflict to end the cycle of violence and indiscriminate killing, and on the Government of Burundi, in particular, to take measures to end impunity.
Meanwhile, the prevailing "environment of insecurity" had seriously inhibited the ability of humanitarian personnel to assist populations in need. In the past two months, nine humanitarian workers, including United Nations personnel, had been killed in Burundi. All parties to the conflict shared responsibility for the safety and security of humanitarian staff. Those parties must provide concrete assurances that they would ensure the safety, security and freedom of movement of all humanitarian personnel. The Canadian Government further insisted that the conditions necessary for the resumption of humanitarian assistance be restored.
Wider instability in the region had impaired peace efforts in Burundi, he said. He was concerned by reports of the destabilizing presence in Burundi -- reiterated a moment ago by his colleague from Burundi -- of Interhamwe and ex- Rwandan Armed Forces who had come from the Democratic Republic of the Congo as a result of the Lusaka ceasefire. Peace in Burundi was unlikely to be achieved on a durable basis in the absence of a settlement of the conflict in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo. All parties to the Lusaka agreement were therefore urged to respect, in detail, their commitments. Efforts to restore peace throughout the subregion must receive the full support of the international community.
STEWARD ELDON (United Kingdom)said the situation in Burundi was becoming increasingly complex and precarious. The recent outbreaks of violence -- including against humanitarian workers; the sad death of Julius Nyerere; and the continuing slow pace of progress in the Arusha process -- were of serious concern. The most immediate priority was to alleviate the suffering of the people of Burundi. As the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees told Council members yesterday, the humanitarian situation was becoming increasingly serious. Aid organizations had had to scale down their activities and were now unable to deliver even emergency relief outside Bujumbura.
He said that access and security for aid workers must be assured, and quickly, if a massive humanitarian crisis was to be avoided. The Government of Burundi must make every effort to allow for the people in regroupment camps to return to their homes as soon as possible. The persistent violence against civilians was unacceptable. That could not be underlined too strongly. He utterly condemned the deliberate killing of United Nations workers and Burundi nationals in Rutana in October. The Government must bring those responsible for that massacre to justice and cooperate with other investigations into the incident. All parties to the conflict were called upon to respect the human rights of all people in Burundi and to abide by international humanitarian law.
The leaders of Burundi knew the way forward, he went on. Only a negotiated settlement could bring lasting peace, stability and prosperity to their country. "There is no military solution", he said. All parties, including those previously excluded from the Arusha process, must reject political violence and extremism, and dedicate themselves to a negotiated settlement. There was a lot to be gained. The risks of failure -- for Burundi, its people and for the region -- were immense. The supportive role being played by the regional States in search of a negotiated solution had been commendable. Unfortunately, the regional meeting to agree on a new facilitator had been postponed to late November. The timetable must not slip any further. All concerned were urged to show flexibility and to engage constructively, in the meantime.
He said he welcomed the fact that Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast was consulting the regional States, as they appoint a new facilitator. At that critical juncture, the United Nations should be more actively engaged at a political and humanitarian level. There must be a "concerted push" by the United Nations, the regional States -- and most importantly -- by Burundi's own political leaders. Only that would succeed in translating the modest gains made by the Arusha process into a real victory for the people of Burundi. He was ready to support them in every way possible.
RASHID AL-DOSARI (Bahrain) regretted that the situation in Burundi was going backwards, in political, economic and humanitarian terms. The death of Mr. Nyerere had left a political vacuum. Yet, that was not the principal factor in the worsening situation. While Mr. Nyerere had been able to calm the situation, bringing the partners to the negotiating table, it seemed that the political partners themselves lacked the will to find an agreement. The slow progress so far demonstrated that lack of political will. He called on all the parties to take the peace option to settle their differences. He looked forward to the speedy appointment of a new facilitator, which was needed to maintain momentum in the peace process.
Concerned by acts of violence in the capital and some of the provinces, he called on all parties, including the Government, to allow humanitarian aid to reach all refugees, particularly in the three areas of regroupment that lacked food and medicine. He appealed to the international community to provide the necessary humanitarian aid to Burundi immediately. He condemned the killing of humanitarian workers and called on the Government and all parties to exert all efforts to ensure the safety and security of United Nations personnel and those of humanitarian organizations.
ALAIN DEJAMMET (France) said he deplored the attacks on civilians and on humanitarian workers in Burundi. Todays debate offered an opportunity to consider what part the United Nations could play in bringing peace and stability to that country. It was essential that the reconciliation process be based on what had already been achieved in the Arusha talks.
He said he supported the efforts of the Secretary-General in sending an envoy to help put the process back on track. It was essential for all the actors in the peace process to participate. Brining a halt to the fighting was a priority. The international community must offer support in real terms. It was essential to break out of the vicious circle.
Implementation of the Lusaka agreement was essential to the complete and full recovery of Burundi. The Council must give thought to the Lusaka agreement and the resumption of the Arusha negotiations. He supported the holding of a conference on the Great Lakes region, to be sponsored by the United Nations and the OAU.
The meeting was suspended at 1 p.m.
When the meeting resumed at 3:10 p.m., BABOUCARR-BLAISE ISMAILA JAGNE (Gambia) said that despite the enormous time and energy invested by the international community to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, there had yet to be a breakthrough. With the demise of Mwalimu Nyerere, to whom his delegation paid tribute, and the resumption of hostilities, it had appeared that the Burundian factions were even further away from peace. There was, therefore, the urgent need to redouble efforts, with a view to salvaging the flagging peace process.
As a first step, he said a facilitator should be identified; a former African head of State agreeable to the Burundi parties would be the ideal choice. The committees of the Arusha process should be encouraged to continue their work; it would be too costly to restart the process. Rather, progress already made should be built upon, especially at a time when more and more civilians were being targeted. The situation had been exacerbated by the fact that not even humanitarian and United Nations personnel had been spared. The current state of affairs was unacceptable to the international community.
He said his delegation was outraged by those barbaric and despicable acts committed against civilians, both local and international. He, therefore, condemned the attack in Ratana and all attacks against unarmed non-combatants, and called on the authorities in Burundi to investigate those incidents and to prosecute those responsible with the full vigour of the law. It was the responsibility of each government to protect its citizens. While the concerns of the Government of Burundi were understandable, putting people in camps away from their farms might not be the best solution.
The humanitarian situation was deteriorating very rapidly, he continued. The belligerents were not helping the situation either. With the recent trend of calculated attacks against humanitarian personnel, the corridors for the delivery of humanitarian assistance were shrinking sharply. All sides were urged to ensure the safety, security and freedom of movement of humanitarian personnel. The presence of combatants in refugee camps was also a source of grave concern, as that unfortunate situation had been largely responsible for the numerous reports of executions. The civilian character of refugee camps must be respected by all concerned.
He noted that the latest report on the food situation in Burundi was very bleak, and it was feared that no improvement would occur next season. Thus, relief assistance was badly needed to avert an imminent humanitarian crisis. It was also worrisome that, notwithstanding the lifting of sanctions against Burundi, the economic situation had deteriorated. His delegation had wholeheartedly supported the expansion of aid to the Burundi Government, and appealed to the donor community to resume such assistance as soon as possible.
The present civil war in Burundi had hampered economic development, he said. The belligerents must understand that fact and end the suffering of their people. In that connection, they must "get their acts together", lay down their arms and negotiate genuinely and in good faith a final settlement. That would be a welcome tribute to the memory of Mwalimu Nyerere. In that way, his efforts would not have been in vain. He hoped the Burundi parties would heed the call.
LUIZ TUPY CALDAS DE MOURA (Brazil) said the situation in Burundi posed a great threat to peace and stability in the Great Lakes region. Renewed fighting between Government forces and the rebels during the last few months had been followed by a significant increase in the number of refugees and displaced persons. The persistent distrust between the two main ethnic groups in the country had raised the fear that a humanitarian tragedy might take place in Burundi.
The lack of progress towards the establishment of a broad-based political dialogue between the parties to the conflict had resulted in intense and unrelenting human suffering, he continued. A lasting solution to the crisis in Burundi could only be found through political and diplomatic means. In that context, Brazil supported the efforts of African leaders to achieve a negotiated solution. The Arusha peace process should continue to receive strong support from the United Nations and the international community.
The Council must make clear its willingness to address the situation in Burundi and keep it under constant review, he stressed. It must stand ready to react to a further deterioration of the humanitarian situation. All parties must refrain from acts of violence and commit themselves without delay to broad-based political dialogue, with a view to establishing conditions conducive to national reconciliation, democracy and the rule of law. The international community must be prepared to support the peace process and assist the countrys rehabilitation. His delegation supported the proposal for holding a regional conference for peace, security and development in the Great Lakes region, convened by the United Nations and the OAU.
MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said the situation in Burundi had destabilized the entire country, as well as the region beyond its borders. The Great Lakes region had faced many problems requiring the collective will and support of the international community. His country was deeply concerned at the increasing violence and instability, and also was concerned at the plight of refugees, who were fleeing continuing fighting between the rebels and Government forces. Innocent civilians had been the main victims of the conflict; those had been forced to flee their homes for camps, where humanitarian conditions were appalling. Adequate shelter and water supply was lacking. Worse still, some of the camps were inaccessible to humanitarian organizations.
He paid tribute to the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere for his leadership and the tireless efforts aimed at bringing the parties to the negotiating table. The role played by the Untied Republic of Tanzania must also be recognized. Indeed, that country had extended its hospitality to many Burundi refugees, just as it had done for many Namibians during their fight for independence. Today, the United Republic of Tanzania, a least developed country, hosted some 260,000 Burundi refugees. Hopefully, it would continue to play a positive role in the negotiations.
He said the Burundi parties should continue in earnest with the negotiations towards a peaceful solution to the country's civil strife. He called upon those not participating in the negotiations to join them. It was also important that the fighting stop, so that all efforts were concentrated on a negotiated settlement. Regrettably, that might not be possible by the end of the year. The parties were encouraged to resolve the question of a successor to former President Nyerere in order to fill the vacuum caused by his untimely death, advance the process and end the suffering of the Burundi people.
He said that only the inclusion of all Burundis in the country's political, economic and social development process could bring peace. It was up to the people to foster mutual accommodation and acceptance; the international community could only assist. Meanwhile, the donor community should continue to support the Arusha negotiations and contribute to the humanitarian needs of the population. His country had condemned the killing of two expatriate United Nations workers in the Rutana province on 12 October, which had led to the suspension of United Nations humanitarian activities there. Hopefully, those activities would resume as security conditions permitted. The Burundi Government should investigate the matter and ensure that the perpetrators were brought to justice.
DENIS DANGUE REWAKA (Gabon) said the integral implementation of the Lusaka agreement would advance the resolution of the situation in Burundi. A new facilitator should be chosen as soon as possible and all Burundis should take part in the choice.
He reiterated his condemnation of the murder of United Nations staff members and of humanitarian workers on 12 October. He welcomed the investigation, which had been taken over by the Government, to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
The cycle of violence was increasing the casualties among women and children and the flow of refugees into neighbouring countries, he said. He urged the Burundis to remember their commitment to creating a climate of peace and to end the cycle of violence and killing. They should remember their vow to demonstrate a responsible leadership to end the suffering and to create conditions for peaceful coexistence. To act in any other way would provide a pretext for those reluctant to cooperate in re-establishing peace and reconciliation. He emphasized that the state of poverty and the lack of development might damage the effort to restore peace.
HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) said a lasting solution of the conflict in Burundi could not be attained through military means. He noted with concern the current impasse in the political dialogue and urged the international community, particularly the regional States, to continue to galvanize efforts towards bringing the parties together to end the fighting. The Burundis must be encouraged to search for a lasting solution to their tragic conflict at the negotiating table.
He supported the initiatives of regional leaders and the OAU in assisting Burundi in finding a negotiated settlement. It was imperative that the current consultations among the leaders in the region to find a new facilitator result in an early decision. Time was of the essence. All of Burundi's political forces must participate in a dialogue process that would lead to a consensual approach to ending the conflict. He supported the Arusha peace process, which remained the most viable avenue towards lasting peace.
He said the deteriorating security situation had resulted in large-scale population displacement and forced suspension of humanitarian assistance. Unimpeded provision of and access to humanitarian assistance was imperative, if the situation in Burundi was to be stabilized. He called on the authorities in Burundi to institute a thorough investigation and subsequent prosecution of those responsible for the deaths of the humanitarian workers.
Continuing, he said sectarian interests must give way to interests and concerns of the Burundi people at large. The international community could no longer allow acts of unbridled violence to continue with impunity. He underscored that responsibility for ending the conflict lay with the leaders of Burundi and the factions.
PETER VAN WALSUM (Netherlands) said that one year ago, when his country joined the Council, Burundi had often been referred to as a shimmer of light in a region of darkest conflict. Regional sanctions had subsequently been lifted, and it had been expected that by the end of 1999, the Arusha peace process would result in an overall settlement. Today, his country was extremely concerned about the present situation. Extremist forces had gained new ground and, in that atmosphere, two United Nations staff were recently killed, one of whom was a Dutch national. The perpetrators of those murders must be brought to justice.
Amid such deteriorating security conditions, he said the humanitarian situation continued to worsen. He called upon all parties to respect the relevant rules of international humanitarian law. The neutrality and impartiality of humanitarian assistance must be respected and everything possible must be done to guarantee the safety of those who delivered that assistance. While a degenerating security situation might call for exceptional measures, the forced regrouping of the rural population was not an acceptable response. The authorities concerned should be reminded that the safety and well-being of those had been regrouped against their will remained the responsibility of the Government of Burundi. They should be allowed to return to their homes as soon as possible.
The untimely death of President Nyerere and the subsequent interruption of the Arusha peace process could not have occurred at a more inopportune time. Hopefully, the parties concerned would soon be able to identify a successor to Mr. Nyerere, so that a dangerous vacuum might be avoided. All parties must gear their efforts towards an early resumption of negotiations. The situation was cause for broader concern because of its dangerous regional implications. The Arusha and Lusaka processes were intertwined; they were dependent on each other's success. There was no hope for peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, if there was no prospect of stability based on reconciliation in its neighbours to the east. His delegation associated itself with the statement to be made by the representative of Finland on behalf of the European Union.
DANILO TURK (Slovenia) said Burundi was in grave crisis, and a humanitarian drama was unfolding. The reports received from UNICEF described the rapidly deteriorating situation for children. The drama must be stopped. Todays debate was timely, for that reason, and also in that it provided the Council a chance to reconfirm its support for the Arusha peace process. Many had expected that the peace process would be completed by the end of this year. Now, it was clear that peace efforts would have to continue in 2000. The appointment of a new facilitator was a priority. It was essential that all parties were given the opportunity to participate, as an agreement without the support of all actors would be meaningless.
Another basic problem was that of the safety and security of international personnel, he continued. The sad events of 12 October showed how fragile and precarious the situation in the country was, and how persistent the violence there. Every effort must be made to bring the perpetrators to justice and reinvigorate the peace process. The problems were many and were frightening. He hoped the visit of Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast would lead to ideas on how the Council could support the peace process.
MATTI KAARIAINEN (Finland), spoke for the European Union, as well as Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Cyprus, Malta and Liechtenstein. He expressed serious concern about the slow pace of progress in the peace process, and deplored the deterioration of security, as well as of humanitarian and human rights in Burundi. Now, there was need for more active engagement by the international community and the regions leaders. The death of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere was an enormous setback to the Arusha peace process. Nevertheless, it was of utmost importance that the talks continue while a new facilitator was agreed upon. All parties should reach agreement rapidly on a new facilitator and a format for deliberations.
Deeply deploring the renewed outbreak of indiscriminate violence in Burundi, the Union called on all the parties and armed groups in the region to end acts of violence immediately, he said. The neutrality of the regions refugee camps must be assured and States must prevent the use of their territory for staging attacks against neighbouring States. The Union condemned the targeting of civilian populations. It was shocked by the massacre of humanitarian personnel and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. The Union was deeply alarmed that, as a consequence of the latest outbreak of violence, the number of refugees and displaced persons had risen dramatically, with more than 1.1 million persons displaced since 1993.
The Union was particularly concerned about the recent forced removals by the Burundi army of some 300,000 civilians in the countryside near Bujumbura, he said. It deplored the violation of human rights, loss of life and destruction of property that had been the hallmark of the operation. The Union called on the Government of Burundi to halt the policy of forced removals and allow the people to return to their homes as quickly as possible. Until then, the Government must provide the people with better conditions.
He then appealed to all parties to respect human rights and international humanitarian law. The Government of Burundi should accelerate investigations relating to human rights violations, especially where army units had been involved, and bring those responsible to justice. The Government of Burundi should continue its cooperation with the United Nations human rights mechanisms, in particular with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Council, for its part, had a special role in helping Burundi and its citizens to find a peaceful solution to the crisis.
OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) said the international community had a special responsibility to prevent another human tragedy from happening in the region. The United Nations could and should play a more active role in ensuring peace and stability in Burundi. His Government was concerned that the passing away of Mwalimu Nyerere at this critical juncture in the peace negotiations could lead to a vacuum in the efforts for peace and reconciliation. That in turn could further aggravate the security situation in Burundi, and cause a new escalation of violence. There were also fears that the violence in Burundi might spread to neighbouring States and worsen instability in the region.
For those reasons, he continued, his Government strongly urged all parties concerned to join in the effort to appoint as soon as possible a new mediator to replace the late Mwalium Nyerere, and also to resume without delay the peace talks in Arusha in a constructive manner in order to overcome the present dangerous standstill in the peace process.
The situation in Burundi must be viewed in the context of political events elsewhere in the Great Lakes region, particularly in light of the still volatile situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said. It would be difficult to ensure peace and reconciliation in Burundi if the Lusaka agreement was not effectively implemented in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Therefore, recent reports of an increasing number of violations of the ceasefire in the Democratic Republic of the Congo were a source of concern. Norway urged all the parties to the Lusaka agreement to respect the commitments they had made, and urged the Council to follow the situation in the country with close attention.
MUSINGA T. BANDORA (United Republic of Tanzania) said today's Council meeting had a special significance, as it was taking place on the last day of national mourning for the country's founding President. Julius Nyerere, in his capacity as facilitator, had worked tirelessly in pursuit of a peaceful settlement to the problems facing Burundi. The most fitting tribute the Council could bestow on his memory would be to rededicate itself to the resolute search for a lasting solution to the conflict in that country, where the situation had remained tense and challenging and characterized by violence and human suffering.
He said that today's meeting was taking place against the backdrop of two major developments, namely the death of the facilitator of the Burundi peace negotiations and the deepening crisis. It was, therefore, incumbent upon the Council to take stock of where the efforts for a negotiated settlement stood and what could be done to reinforce them in a manner that would reinvigorate the peace process.
As a neighbour of Burundi, he said his country's overriding interest remained ensuring that the Arusha process was sustained and steadily brought to a comprehensive conclusion. There would be accusations, as there had been frequently against his country, that it had supported and harboured armed elements operating against Burundi. His Government had rejected that allegation most vigorously and had repeatedly stated that it had no interest in supporting armed attacks against Burundi or harbouring, training or arming its opponents.
Continuing, he said his country would be the very victim of such a policy. His Government had challenged the Burundi authorities to provide proof of its allegations. To date, no evidence had been forthcoming, and it would not be, because the accusations were "false and baseless". That notwithstanding, his country was determined, as a responsible neighbour, to honour its international obligations relating to the hosting of refugees and, together with the region, to strive for peace in Burundi. "Their peace is also our peace", he said.
As the negotiation process had reached a critical state, it was important not to lose the momentum, he said. In the current state of flux, it should be ensured that the process of transition to another facilitator was managed in a way that supported the consolidation of the gains of the process and its continuity. The negotiation process within the committees should restart immediately. In addition to their formal structure, informal consultations to complement the process should continue. It was also important to see how the armed elements could rapidly be included in the negotiating process.
He said the Security Council should come out unequivocally in support of the Arusha process and to continue to encourage the parties to persist in dialogue and remain commited to the principle of a negotiated settlement. In that respect, the United Nations must remain positively implicated in the ongoing consultations within the Great Lakes region, on a way forward. The Council must also urge sustained support to the facilitation process by providing it with resources. The existing support of those countries and organizations that had contributed financial aid had enabled many, particularly the small parties in Burundi, to take part in the Arusha talks. The United Nations must make contingency preparations for the outcome of the peace process, which included building institutions to oversee implementation of the peace agreement.
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