SECURITY COUNCIL WELCOMES BURUNDI'S TRANSITIONAL GOVERNMENT, CONDEMNS ATTACKS ON CIVILIANS, IN PRESIDENTIAL STATEMENT

8 November 2001
SC/7199

SECURITY COUNCIL WELCOMES BURUNDI'S TRANSITIONAL GOVERNMENT, CONDEMNS ATTACKS ON CIVILIANS, IN PRESIDENTIAL STATEMENT

8/11/2001
Press ReleaseSC/7199

Security Council

4406th and 4408th Meetings* (PM)

SECURITY COUNCIL WELCOMES BURUNDI'S TRANSITIONAL GOVERNMENT,

CONDEMNS ATTACKS ON CIVILIANS, IN PRESIDENTIAL STATEMENT

Calls for Immediate Suspension

Of Hostilities, Negotiations for Definitive Ceasefire

The Security Council this afternoon welcomed the 1 November inauguration of Burundi’s Transitional Government and called on all Burundians to support it and work together to ensure that broad-based and inclusive Government success in fulfilling its functions, in accordance with the agreements that had led to its establishment.

In a statement read out by its President, Mignonette Patricia Durrant (Jamaica), during the second of two public meetings this afternoon, the Council condemned the recent attacks by the Force for the Defence of Democracy (FDD) and the National Liberation Front (FNL) on civilians.  It also expressed grave concern that the frequency of such acts had increased.

The Council once again stated that the installation of a broad-based government in accordance with an internationally accepted peace process made armed rebellion an unacceptable means of political expression.  It reiterated its call for an immediate suspension of hostilities in Burundi and for armed groups to enter into negotiations to reach a definitive ceasefire.  That was a priority issue, it stated.

Addressing the Council in the first open meeting, Berhanu Dinka, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region and Chairman of the Implementation Monitoring Committee, said it was now up to Burundian political leaders, with support from the region and the international community, to ensure the success of the transitional institutions.  Failure was not an alternative, he stressed.

He said the Facilitator of the Burundi Peace Process, Nelson Mandela, had announced that his task had been completed and that he was passing the baton.  Unfinished and challenging tasks still lay ahead and first among those was the ceasefire.  As long as violence persisted, the peace process would remain fragile.  The two armed groups, FDD and FNL, must realize that the time had come for them to put down their arms and join the search for a durable peace.  The international community should send them a clear message to that effect.

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*     The 4407th meeting was closed.

The other challenge, he said, was the reconstruction and development of the country.  The only way Burundians could be made to continue support for the peace process was if their lives were positively affected by recent changes.  The international community could bring that about by resuming socio-economic development cooperation and enhancing humanitarian assistance, qualitatively and quantitatively.

James Wapakhabulo, Uganda's Third Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, said the regional ministerial representatives were ready to work with the Council to bring the armed opposition groups FDD and FNL into the peace process and were also prepared to take the necessary measures should they remain intransigent.

He urged the Council to send a strong message that it was prepared to commit an adequate United Nations peacekeeping force as soon as a ceasefire was in place.  The Transitional Government and the Implementation Monitoring Committee for the Arusha Peace Agreement would need the Council's continuous support and encouragement.

The first meeting, which began at 3:13 p.m., was adjourned at 3:56 p.m.

The second meeting, during which the presidential statement was read, began at 6:30 p.m. and adjourned at 6:35 p.m.

Background

Long-standing internal conflict in Burundi led, in 1993, to a coup attempt in which the first democratically elected President, a Hutu, and six ministers were killed.  Fighting between the largely Tutsi army and Hutu rebels followed, resulting in massive internal displacements of people and threatened to further destablize the already-unstable region.  An estimated 200,000 people died in Burundi’s civil war, according to the Peace and Security Section, Department of Public Information (http://www.un.org).

Over the years, the United Nations has been actively involved in a good offices mission in Burundi.  A United Nations Office in Burundi was established in 1993, at the request of the Security Council, to support initiatives aimed at promoting peace and reconciliation in the country.  Despite all efforts by the international community, the peace process made little progress, and the security and humanitarian situation has continued to deteriorate. 

The African heads of State appointed former South African President Nelson Mandela facilitator and, in January 2000, the Secretary-General appointed Berhanu Dinka (Ethiopia) as his Special Representative for the Great Lakes region. Intensive efforts by Mr. Mandela led, on 28 August 2000 in Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania, to the signing of a Peace and Reconciliation Agreement by most of the parties. Mr. Mandela, supported by the United Nations and by the Security Council, encouraged those Burundi movements and groups that had not signed the Agreement to do so.

The seventeenth regional summit on Burundi was held in Pretoria on

11 October.  The Government of Burundi and the members of seven opposition parties agreed on the legal framework for and the structure of the transitional government, the composition of the cabinet, the senate and the transitional national assembly.  The summit participants called for an impartial multinational presence in Burundi to serve as a confidence-building measure in support of the Arusha peace process, in general, and, in particular, the imminent inauguration of the interim Government of Burundi.  Following an announcement by the Government of South Africa that it would deploy a battalion in Burundi to serve as an interim protection force, until an all-Burundi unit had been trained to take over the responsibility, the Council voiced its support for an interim multinational security presence in Burundi.

On 1 November, a power-sharing plan came into effect that allows for a Hutu and Tutsi president to alternate at the helm of the country.  The first term will be for 18 months.  The two main Hutu rebel groups have rejected the Facilitator’s plan and have vowed to continue fighting the Tutsi-dominated army.  The new Government, led by President Pierre Buyoya, is due to meet for the first time today to begin deciding on practical measures to bring peace.  Those moves are expected to include the creation of a transitional assembly and a proposal for a multi-ethnic army.

Meanwhile, the humanitarian suffering in Burundi has continued unabated. Hundreds of thousands have died as a result of the conflict between Government and rebel forces, and the number of Burundian refugees had reached 500,000 and is growing.  More than 800,000 people -- 12 per cent of the population -- are internally displaced.

Statements

BERHANU DINKA (Ethiopia), Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region and Chairman of the Implementation Monitoring Committee, said that on 1 November the Transitional Government of National Unity was inaugurated in Burundi.  On 27 October, the National Assembly adopted a transitional constitution that would guide the work of the Transitional Government; the first group of the Special Protection Unit arrived from South Africa and a number of political leaders returned from exile to participate in the new government.  It was now up to the Burundian political leaders, with support from the region and the international community, to ensure the success of the transitional institutions.  Failure was not an alternative.

He said the priorities of the Transitional Government were:  ceasefire negotiations; communal-level Council elections; repatriation of refugees and the rebuilding of infrastructure; and reform of security and judicial systems.  Burundi President Pierre Buyoya had appealed to the countries of the subregion, the facilitation and the international community to continue to assist, so that those priorities could be achieved.  Mr. Buyoya had indicated that he would approach the Security Council to create an international judicial commission of inquiry to investigate possible cases of genocide, war crimes and other crimes of humanity, while the Burundi Government would set up a national truth and reconciliation commission.

He said the Facilitator, Nelson Mandela, had announced that his task as facilitator had been completed and that he was passing the baton.  Unfinished and challenging tasks lay ahead.  First among those was the ceasefire.  As long as violence persisted, the peace process would remain fragile.  The two-armed groups -- Force for the Defense of Democracy (FDD) and the National Liberation Front (FNL) -- must realize that the time had come for them to put down their arms and join the search for a durable peace.  The international community should send them a clear message to that effect.

The training of an all-Burundian special protection unit to take over from the regional force remained a priority, he said.  The regional force already in place had the capacity to carry out those tasks, but there was an urgent need for the international community to provide that force with the financial and material resources necessary to accomplish its dual mandate of protecting political leaders and training the Burundian special protection unit.  The only way to bring the costs down and to ensure, at the same time, the long-term success of the transitional arrangements was to immediately begin the training of a national protection unit, with a view to replace the regional force as soon as possible.

The other major challenge, he said, was the reconstruction and development of the country.  The only way the people of Burundi would continue to support the peace process was if their lives were positively affected by the recent changes.  The international community could bring that about by resuming its socio-economic development cooperation and enhancing its humanitarian assistance qualitatively and quantitatively.

The Council, he said, might wish to consider calling on the two-armed groups to engage the new Government in serious negotiations and conclude without delay a ceasefire.  It might also express support for the regional special police unit in Bujumbura and call on all Burundian parties to cooperate with them.  Also, the Council might wish to urge those in a position to do so, particularly the donor community, to stay the course and to provide adequate financial resources to enable the regional special protection unit to carry out its double mandate of providing protection and training a Burundian unit.

JAMES WAPAKHABULO, Third Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Uganda, speaking on behalf of the Regional Ministerial Representatives on the Peace Initiative on Burundi, said unfinished business included the participation of the armed opposition.  The CNDD/FDD and Palipehutu FNL had not participated in the negotiations leading to the 20 August agreement and had not agreed to a ceasefire.  Negotiations, facilitated by President Omar Bongo and Deputy President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, would continue between the Transitional Government and the armed opposition.

He appealed to the Council as a whole and to its individual members to bring their influence to bear on those groups to ensure they complied.  The Regional Ministerial Representatives were ready to work with the Council to bring the armed groups into the peace process and were prepared to take the necessary measures should CNDD/FDD and Palipehutu FNL remain intransigent.

Other major challenges during the implementation phase related to the formation of a new national army, parliament and other institutions of the transition, he said.  The Transitional Government and the Implementation Monitoring Committee for the Arusha Peace Agreement would need the Security Council's continuous support and encouragement.

He said the link between the conflicts in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo had hitherto complicated the search for peace in the Great Lakes region.  For the first time, the prospects of a ceasefire brought closer an opportunity to turn the negative forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo into positive forces in Burundi.  But, while there was a transitional government in Bujumbura, there should be no illusions about the peace process.

It was extremely important that a ceasefire be urgently established to enable the deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping force under Chapter VII, he emphasized.  The Council should send a strong message that it was prepared to commit an adequate United Nations peacekeeping force as soon as a ceasefire was in place.  It was important that the Transitional Government receive adequate assistance to enable it to provide social services and to handle the return and resettlement of the Burundi refugees and internally displaced persons.

The Council President, MIGNONETTE PATRICIA DURRANT (Jamaica), welcomed the representatives of the peace initiative on Burundi, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to that country, and the Observer for the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to the Council.  She also expressed appreciation to Ambassador Jean-David Levitte of France, whose idea it was to convene today's dialogue.

She said the meeting today was a momentous one.  On 1 November, a transitional government had been inaugurated in Burundi.  That was a defining period in the history of that country and its long-suffering people.  A new political dispensation had been ushered into the country, and she congratulated the members of the Transitional Government, wishing them success in charting a future for the Burundian people.

She said the Council remained committed to the peace process in Burundi.  The purpose of today's meeting was to exchange views on the implementation of the Arusha Peace Agreements.  The Council would endeavour to maintain a spirit of partnership with the Burundian process.  It was hoped that the discussion today would help the United Nations ascertain how it could help Burundians to address the challenges ahead in the post-transition period.

She said it was even more critical for members of the armed groups to return to normal life in the country and reiterated that the Council fully supported the regional protection force.  Now, it was imperative for all the parties to ensure that normalcy returned to Burundi.  The Council also looked forward to the subsequent deployment of troops from Senegal, Nigeria and Ghana.  Now that the Transitional Government was in place, attention must be placed on the deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation in the country.  In that regard, the Council was ready to assist.

Presidential Statement

The full text of the presidential statement, to be issued as S/PRST/2001/33, reads as follows:

“The Security Council welcomes the 1 November 2001 inauguration of Burundi’s Transitional Government, and calls on all Burundians to support it and work together to ensure the success of this broad-based and inclusive government’s fulfilling its functions in accordance with the agreements that led to its establishment.

“The Security Council welcomes the continued engagement of the Regional Initiative and, in this regard, also welcomes the deployment of the first elements of the multinational security presence tasked with the protection of returning political leaders.  The Council calls on all the Burundian parties to support this undertaking, and expresses its gratitude to the Government of South Africa for its contribution to the cause of peace in Burundi.

“The Security Council expresses its deep appreciation to former President Nelson Mandela for his dedicated service as Facilitator of the Arusha Peace Process, and reiterates its hope that the region and the international community may continue to rely on his moral leadership.  The Council welcomes the efforts of the Secretary General and his Special Representative for the Great Lakes, through the Implementation Monitoring Committee.

“The Security Council condemns the recent attacks by the FDD and FNL on civilians, and is gravely concerned that the frequency of such attacks has increased.  The Council once again states that the installation of a broad-based government in accordance with an internationally supported peace process makes armed rebellion an unacceptable means of political expression.

“The Security Council reiterates its call for an immediate suspension of hostilities in Burundi and for the armed groups to enter into negotiations to reach a definitive ceasefire, which is the priority issue.  In this regard, the

Council welcomes the involvement of President Bongo of Gabon and Deputy President Zuma of South Africa and expresses its full support for their efforts.

“The Security Council expresses its concern at the human rights and humanitarian situations in Burundi and once again calls on the responsible parties to ensure full compliance with the relevant international conventions.

“The Security Council calls on the international community to increase its humanitarian assistance, as well as to assist in Burundi’s economic recovery and development through, inter alia, honouring the pledges made at the Paris donors’ conference.”

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For information media. Not an official record.