TIME RIPE FOR UNITED NATIONS TO TAKE OVER PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS IN BURUNDI, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD

4 December 2003
SC/7944

TIME RIPE FOR UNITED NATIONS TO TAKE OVER PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS IN BURUNDI, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD

04/12/2003
Press ReleaseSC/7944

Security Council

4876th Meeting (PM)

TIME RIPE FOR UNITED NATIONS TO TAKE OVER PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS

IN BURUNDI, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD

Facilitator of Peace Process Briefs Members

On Gains, Remaining Challenges After Decade of Conflict

The Burundi peace process had entered a decisive and irreversible stage and conditions were now conducive for a United Nations peacekeeping mission to take over from the African Union’s regional military component, Jacob Zuma, Deputy President of South Africa and Facilitator of the Burundi peace process, told the Security Council this afternoon.

Briefing the Council, he noted, however, that while the implementation of all ceasefire agreements had been swift, the PALIPEHUTU-FNL rebel group of Agathon Rwasa remained outside the peace process.  Meanwhile, the gains made had included the smooth presidential rotation that had seen Pierre Buyoya, from the Tutsi political family, vacate office to be replaced by President Domitien Ndayizeye, from the Hutu political family.

He said Burundi had also successfully completed the first two thirds of the transition period at the end of which a democratically elected government should be able to replace transitional institutions.  Burundi was closer to lasting peace today than it had ever been in 10 years of conflict.  The African Union, the Great Lakes Regional Initiative, the Facilitation Team, the African Mission and Burundian parties had each made their contribution and the international community must now help consolidate those positive gains.

Also addressing the Council, Economic and Social Council President Gert Rosenthal (Guatemala), who had just returned from Burundi, said that the implementation of the peace accords required tough decisions by Burundians.  The steps that had already been taken warranted international assistance, which fell within the purview of both the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council.

Emphasizing that peace was a prerequisite to reconstruction and development, while development was the principle ingredient for sustainable peace, he said that the immediate challenge facing Burundi was to avoid slipping back into conflict.  The longer-term task was a return to normalcy and a decent standard of living.

Following the briefing, Council members applauded South Africa’s outstanding role in the peace process, which was now pushing the international community to look at Burundi beyond the conflict and to lay the foundations for sustained international assistance.  They also commended the leading role played by the African Union Mission, which had lent continuity to the efforts of those Burundians committed to a peaceful settlement of the decade-long conflict.  The recent visit of the Economic and Social Council mission to Burundi was recognized as a demonstration of that commitment.

At the same time, several members expressed concern that PALIPEHUTU-FNL remained outside the peace process and that the Nairobi negotiations between the group and the Transitional Government had failed to produce the hoped-for results.  Angola’s representative joined other speakers in urging the rebel group to end hostilities immediately and enter into talks with the Transitional Government without further delay.

Germany’s representative said that the lack of a ceasefire agreement with FNL posed a problem that must be dealt with before peace could firmly take hold, warning that the group could serve as a magnet to those who opposed the agreements and subsequent protocols.  Should it fail to enter into talks with the Transitional Government in three months, the Council should consider coercive measures or an embargo against those within FNL who were unwilling to cooperate.

Also preoccupying speakers was the sustainability of the gains already made.  The United Kingdom’s representative said that because Africans were producing their own solutions to regional problems, the international community had an even greater obligation to assist them.  For the United Nations, that meant a focused intervention covering all areas -- from security to economic development -- and involving the entire United Nations family, including, crucially, the Economic and Social Council.

Also speaking today were representatives of France, Pakistan, China, United States, Syria, Russian Federation, Spain, Guinea, Cameroon, Mexico, Chile and Bulgaria.

The meeting began at 3:42 p.m. and adjourned at 5:29 p.m.

Background

The Security Council met this afternoon to hear briefings on the situation in Burundi by the Deputy President of South Africa and the President of the Economic and Social Council.

Before the Council was a letter dated 19 November from the Chargé d’affaires of the Permanent Mission of Burundi to the United Nations (document S/2003/1105).  It transmits the Global Ceasefire Agreement between the Transitional Government of Burundi and the National Council for the Defence of Democracy-Forces for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), signed at Dar-es-Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania, on 16 November.

The Council’s last formal open meeting on Burundi was held on 2 May, when, in adopting presidential statement S/PRST/2003/4, it congratulated the parties on a peaceful transition of the country’s presidency on 1 May from Domitien Ndayizeye, a Hutu, who took over from Pierre Buyoya, a Tutsi, midway through the three-year interim period, at the end of which elections were held.

Strongly condemning attacks in April on Bujumbura and other cities by CNDD-FDD (Nkurunziza), it urged all Burundian parties to observe the terms of the ceasefire agreements and implement them without delay.  It reiterated its demands that FNL (Rwasa) rebels lay down its arms and immediately enter into a ceasefire without preconditions.

On 22 September, the Council issued an official communiqué (document S/PV.4832), reporting that its members, along with President Ndayizeye and Alpha Omar Konare, Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union, had held a “constructive exchange of views” in a closed meeting.

Long-standing internal tensions in Burundi led to a 1993 coup attempt in which the country’s first democratically elected President, the Hutu Melchior Ndadaye, was killed.  Widespread fighting between the largely Tutsi army and Hutu rebels resulted in an estimated 200,000 deaths and massive displacement.  Intensive efforts by former President Nelson Mandela of South Africa -– succeeding the late former President Julius Nyerere of the United Republic of Tanzania as Facilitator for the peace process -– led, on 28 August 2000, to the signing of a Peace and Reconciliation Agreement by most of the parties at Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania.  On 1 November, a power-sharing plan came into force that allowed for a Hutu and a Tutsi President to alternate in leading the country.

A United Nations Office in Burundi (UNOB) was established in 1993, at the request of the Security Council, to support initiatives aimed at promoting peace and reconciliation in the country.  Following the signing of ceasefire agreements between the Government and the armed groups, a Joint Ceasefire Commission was established to coordinate and resolve issues relating to implementation of those agreements and address military issues arising from the implementation period.

Briefings

JACOB ZUMA, Deputy President of South Africa and Facilitator of the Burundi peace process, said that the twentieth Summit of the Great Lakes Regional Peace Initiative on Burundi, held on 16 November, had mandated him to report to the Council again, and to request “urgent direct assistance” for the peace process.  That would help to consolidate gains, prepare the ground for successful democratic elections in 11 months, and firmly root Burundi on the road to lasting peace and stability.

He said tremendous progress had been made over the past year, which was ending on a positive note.  Significant developments had included the establishment of the African Mission in Burundi, the conclusion of outstanding negotiations and the implementation of the various agreements, including power sharing and transformation of the security apparatus.  The African Mission would oversee implementation of the ceasefire agreements, support the disarmament and demobilization initiatives, contribute to political and economic stability in Burundi, and work to achieve conditions favourable to the establishment of a United Nations peacekeeping mission there.

The Mission integrated a military component and comprised contingents from Mozambique, Ethiopia and South Africa, he said.  It also had a military observer component of 43 members from Burkina Faso, Gabon, Mali, Togo and Tunisia.  At the end of November, the total strength of the force stood at 2,656 men and women.  The Mission was widely regarded as a shining example and model of African solutions to continental security challenges.

Regarding the ceasefire agreements, he noted that negotiations had concluded on outstanding issues related to the signing of the agreement between the CNDD-FDD (Nkurunziza) and the Transitional Government.  That had led to the signing of the two Pretoria Protocols of 8 October and 2 November and the comprehensive ceasefire agreement signed in Dar-es-Salaam on 16 November, which was a consolidation of all agreements between the CNDD-FDD (Nkurunziza) and the Transitional Government.

He emphasized that since the signing of the first Pretoria Protocol on 8 October, the level of violence had declined dramatically, bringing peace to at least 95 per cent of the territory of Burundi.  Celebrations by Burundian refugees during the signing of the comprehensive agreement were an indication of the genuine Burundian desire for peace.  The Burundi peace process had entered a decisive and irreversible stage, and implementation of all ceasefire agreements had been swift, and change was evident.

He said the Transitional Government now included representatives of the three movements that had signed ceasefire agreements with it.  Another practical demonstration of the commitment of Burundians to peace had been the smooth and proficient manner in which the presidential rotation had taken place in May.  Pierre Buyoya, from the Tutsi political family, had vacated office and been replaced by President Domitien Ndayizeye, from the Hutu political family.  The country had also successfully completed the first two thirds of the transition period at the end of which, in 11 months, a democratically elected legislature and executive should be in place to replace transitional institutions.  Because of those positive developments, Burundi was today closer to lasting peace than ever before in 10 years of conflict.

The fact that the PALIPEHUTU-FNL of Agathon Rwasa was currently outside the peace process was regrettable, he said, but that did not pose an obstacle to the peace process since most of the parties were part of it.  The November summit had issued a clear message to FNL to join the peace process within three months.  Its categorical refusal to do so would render it an organization against peace and stability.  He would continue to try to engage the group and was still optimistic that a solution could be found.

While celebrating the tremendous achievements of the past year, he said Burundi faced serious challenges in the weeks and months ahead.  They included the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of returning combatants, as well as the return of refugees and internally displaced persons.  Many refugees, mainly from the United Republic of Tanzania, had begun to move into Burundi on their own, following the signing of the final agreements.  The mood, therefore, was one of optimism and great expectations.

He said that the African Mission, which was responsible for the cantonment and disarmament of the combatants prior to demobilization, required resources to carry out its mandate effectively.  Most importantly, it needed resources to maintain its force.  It would soon be required to take full responsibility for the maintenance of the troops, as the period allocated for self-sustenance by the respective troop-contributing countries would end.  It was extremely urgent, therefore, that financial resources be found without delay.

While appreciating the assistance pledged by the Security Council in its statement of 18 December 2002, relating to, among other issues, facilitation of logistical assistance to the Mission’s deployment, he reiterated that the continued success of the peace process require more direct United Nations involvement.  The African Union, the Great Lakes Regional Initiative, the Facilitation Team, the African Mission and Burundian parties had made their contribution; the international community must now help to consolidate those positive gains.

He said conditions were now conducive for the United Nations to express its support and solidarity by taking over the African Mission in Burundi, “re-hatting” the existing military contingent and deploying a United Nations peacekeeping operation.  The other, more immediate, relief measure was to provide material, logistical and financial support to enable the African Mission to continue its work while preparations were under way for more robust United Nations involvement.  For Africa to be at peace with itself, everyone should work together to support nations that were moving towards peace and stability.

GERT ROSENTHAL (Guatemala), President of the Economic and Social Council, said there was no doubt that the peace accords being implemented required tough decisions on the part of the Burundians themselves, and that steps already taken warranted international assistance.  Part of the required assistance clearly fell within the purview of the Security Council, such as ensuring that the African Union peacekeepers stayed in place or were replaced by United Nations peacekeepers.  Another part fell within the purview of the Economic and Social Council, such as supporting rehabilitation and reconstruction, as well as longer-term development.  In that regard, there was a need for debt relief, budgetary support and the imperative of creating productive jobs.

He said that another part of the assistance, such as support for disarmament, demobilization, reinsertion and reintegration of ex-combatants and resettlement of refugees and internally displaced persons, fell somewhere in between.  It was clear that the United Nations could play a wide-ranging role in supporting Burundi in an integral manner.

Peace was a prerequisite to reconstruction and development, while development was the principal ingredient for sustainable peace, he said.  The immediate challenge in Burundi was to avoid slipping back into conflict.  The larger challenge was to offer Burundians the possibility of a return to normalcy and an opportunity for a decent standard of living.  The United Nations could play a catalytic role in working with bilateral and multilateral donors, non-governmental organizations and even the business sector in supporting the Burundians in their efforts.  The Economic and Social Council’s mechanism of ad hoc groups on African countries emerging from conflict could make a difference, and Burundi offered the possibility of demonstrating that in a decisive manner.

Statements by Council Members

JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIERE (France) welcomed the recent agreements, but noted that much remained to be done.  The FNL had still not joined the peace process, while peace and security would also depend on the development of the economic and social situation.  The international community must do its utmost to keep abreast of developments.  France called on donors to do everything possible at the pledging conference to be held next month in Brussels, Belgium.

He said his country favoured, in principle, of a peacekeeping operation in Burundi to supplement and take over regional efforts.  Right now, however, it was essential that the international community lend its full support to the efforts of the African Union.  The European Union had offered 25 million euros.

JULIO HELDER DE MOURA LUCAS (Angola), applauding South Africa’s outstanding role in the peace process, said that by facilitating the inter-Burundian negotiations and taking a leading role in the African Union Mission, it had lent continuity to the efforts of those Burundians committed to a peaceful settlement in the decade-long conflict.  South Africa was pushing the international community to look at Burundi beyond the conflict and to lay the foundations for sustained international assistance.  The recent visit of the Economic and Social Council mission to Burundi was a demonstration of such a commitment.

Regrettably, he said, the Nairobi negotiations between the Government and the FNL had failed to produce the expected results.  Angola joined others in urging the FNL to end hostilities immediately and enter into talks with the Transitional Government without further delay.  The positive trend of events would become sustainable only if and when the international community showed its unquestionable readiness to assist the country in all ways.  Angola called on the United Nations to play a decisive role, together with the African Union, in consolidating peace and post-conflict recovery and reconstruction.  A United Nations mission should be deployed, in due time, as foreseen in the Arusha agreement.

He also called for the application of equal standards to Burundi, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Côte d’Ivoire in the near future.  Noting that the Security Council had affirmed its support for the African Mission in Burundi, he called on all concerned to provide adequate financial and logistical assistance to that Mission. The African countries, particularly South Africa, were carrying the main burden of the peace process with limited resources.  Angola was also concerned at the low rate of effective disbursements of international pledges, at 36 per cent so far.

MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) urged donor countries and organizations to provide the necessary assistance to the African Union Mission, saying the United Nations should consider joining the peacekeeping efforts.  Humanitarian problems, such as resettlement of refugees and internally displaced persons and reintegration of armed fighters, needed urgent attention.  The situation in Burundi was complex and required a comprehensive approach in political terms, as well as in its social and economical dimensions.  More generous assistance was, therefore, required.

He said there was a need to explore ways in which the United Nations could assist in peace, reconciliation and rehabilitation in Burundi.  In that regard, Pakistan welcomed the establishment of an ad hoc advisory group in the Economic and Social Council.  Further cooperation between the Security Council and that body should be explored.

GUANGYA WANG (China), expressing the hope that all sides in Burundi would fulfil their obligations in good faith, said the peace process still faced many challenges, as certain groups had refused to join it.  China called upon the relevant anti-government armed group to demonstrate a spirit of national reconciliation and join the peace process.

The peacekeeping action of the African Union had played an important role in stabilizing the situation, he said.  The United Nations should enhance its coordination with the organization in support of its peacekeeping efforts in Burundi.

EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom), noting that the African Mission was clearly playing a key part now, said peace was at a crucial juncture.  The parties appeared serious in the pursuit of peace, but significant hurdles remained and security within the country was vital if the peace process was to come to a successful conclusion.  Security covering political and military integration, as well as the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants, would be crucial, and Burundi would need help.  In short, an integrated approach by the international community was needed, that would also cover economic development.

He said the international community’s obligation was even greater because Africans were producing their own solutions.  When that happened across the board, they required -- and the international community was obliged to give -- support to those solutions.  For the United Nations, that meant a focused intervention covering all areas and involving all elements of the United Nations family, including, crucially, the Economic and Social Council.  Thus, the United Kingdom called for an integrated, coordinated approach that tackled the needs of Burundi and avoided the repetition of some of the previous disasters.

GUNTER PLEUGER (Germany), commending South Africa for its successful mediation efforts, said it was doubtful whether agreements between the Transitional Government and the CNDD-FDD could have come about without sustained South African involvement at the highest political level.  Germany also warmly welcomed the exemplary participation of the African Union and the troop contributors.  Such a strong regional involvement would remain a decisive factor for implementation of the Pretoria Protocols, during which all parties involved would be faced with new and difficult challenges.  The cantonment and reintegration of ex-combatants was a most pressing task requiring a considered and coordinated approach.

Germany favoured a multitrack approach to a sustained peace process, which would include the African region, the United Nations and the donor community, he said.  The African Mission, the Great Lakes Conference, the United Nations Office in Burundi and United Nations agencies were all important elements in that respect, but, first and foremost, the commitment of all Burundian parties was needed.  The lack of a ceasefire agreement with FNL posed a problem that must be dealt with before peace could firmly take hold, as the FNL could serve as a magnet to those who opposed the Arusha Agreement and Pretoria Protocols.  Economic and social development would also spur the peace process.

Should FNL fail to enter into negotiations with the Transitional Government in the three months given it, the Council might wish to consider coercive measures or an embargo against those within the group who were unwilling to cooperate, he said.  Reform measures must also be tackled energetically, despite remaining resistance.  Germany called on all factions disappointed with the Pretoria Protocols to recognize them as a real chance towards lasting peace, not only for Burundi, but also for the Great Lakes region.

JAMES B. CUNNINGHAM (United States) said progress had clearly been made, thanks to the hard work of South Africa and others, but much remained to be done.  There was a need for the international community, the United Nations and individual countries to make concerted efforts in helping the country.  The United States welcomed the Pretoria Protocols and urged all parties to continue implementing all agreements.

Security must be a priority if progress was to be made in other areas, he said, urging FNL to cease hostilities and join the peace process.  The recent meetings in Nairobi should be used as a launching pad to bring the group into the process.  The African Union efforts in Burundi demonstrated Africa’s commitment to providing African solutions to African problems, and the United States would provide logistical support in the order of $6.2 million.  It was hoped that disarmament, demobilization and reintegration would begin as quickly as possible and that the Government would work more closely with the World Bank in establishing such a programme.

MILAD ATIEH (Syria) paid tribute to the efforts of South Africa and the African Union supporting the Transitional Government to implement reached agreements, in particular, the Pretoria Protocols.  The African Mission needed logistical and financial support from the international community in order to preserve the ceasefire and promote disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants.

VADIM S. SMIRNOV (Russian Federation) said that today’s meeting reflected the interaction and complementarity of United Nations bodies and regional organizations.  Despite considerable difficulties, the African Union and African regional forces had done everything possible to avert a large-scale war.  Unless there was a truly comprehensive ceasefire agreement in which all the conflicting parties joined without exception, it would not be possible to achieve a stable peace in Burundi.

Recalling that the Council had called several times on the armed groups, particularly FNL, to stop fighting and join in constructive talks with the Government, he said no significant progress had yet been achieved in that regard.  The African Union and influential countries must do their utmost to influence FNL.  It was time to end the fighting; the faster that was done, the faster peace, stability and development could be achieved in the Great Lakes region.

ANA MARIA MENENDEZ (Spain) noted that the signing on 8 October of the Pretoria Protocol had already led to concrete measures, such as the restructuring of the Transitional Government in late November, when it had been joined by the CNDD-FDD.  Nonetheless, the process was still fragile, with major challenges ahead.  The parties must take measures to strengthen the positive steps achieved so far, which included the full implementation of the comprehensive ceasefire agreement signed on 16 November.  Another major challenge to peace was the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants.  To date, the results had been meagre.  The time to advance that matter had truly come.

She reiterated the appeal to FNL to join the peace process, adding that political progress must also lead to an improvement in living standards.  Unfortunately, the humanitarian situation had not improved.  A firm appeal must be made, once again, to all the parties to facilitate free, unobstructed access by humanitarian organizations to the civilian population.  Also, the international community’s support was fundamental.  Great efforts were being made by regional players and by the European Union.  The close relationship between the Burundian peace process and the Great Lakes region conference should also be recognized.

BOUBACAR DIALLO (Guinea) said that while remarkable progress had been made over the last year, there were still dangers ahead, among them FNL’s reluctance to join the peace process.  There was no other option to re-establishing peace than by strengthening first of all the African Union Mission, with a view to replacing it with a United Nations peacekeeping force.

IYA TIDJANI (Cameroon) expressed appreciation to the Government of South Africa for its efforts to restore peace in Burundi and for its decisive contribution to the signing of the Pretoria Protocols.  Cameroon welcomed the signing of 16 November of a power-sharing agreement between the Government and the CNDD-FDD and urged the Burundi parties to continue on the same path.  It also strongly supported the ultimatum to FNL.  The international community must give emergency support to the peace process, and donors must do their utmost to keep up the momentum generated by the recent agreements.

Living conditions in Burundi were dreadful, he noted, and there was a need for humanitarian assistance.  Everything must be done to ensure the repatriation and reinsertion of refugees and internally displaced persons.  There was no better time than the present for the international community to make a decisive contribution to establishment of peace in Burundi, and Cameroon supported the proposal to deploy a United Nations peacekeeping mission there.

CARLOS PUJALTE (Mexico) noted that the agreements reached between the Transitional Government and the CNDD-FDD faction had made it possible to incorporate that rebel group into Burundi’s political life.  Undoubtedly, the decision by FNL not to participate in negotiations had had a negative impact on the peace process.  While emphasizing the need for progress be made in that regard, Mexico recognized the value of FNL’s decision to meet with representatives of the Government for the first time and invited them to continue to work in that direction.

Despite such progress, however, security conditions remained fragile and the humanitarian situation had worsened, he said.  Continuous confrontations had resulted in the displacement of thousands from their homes.  Mexico reiterated its condemnation of all violence and appealed for an immediate end to hostilities and for unrestricted access for humanitarian workers, in safe conditions, to assist the especially vulnerable.  Also with a view to consolidating peace, the Transitional Government would have to implement disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes.

CRISTIAN MAQUIEIRA (Chile) said that while progress had been significant, he recognized the important challenges still facing Burundi.  Despite gains, FNL had not associated itself with the peace process, and the group was encouraged to continue efforts in that regard.  Meanwhile, the reaction of the international community to Burundi must be immediate because the peace process required its comprehensive assistance in all areas.

At the same time, the international community should assess how to handle both security and peace-building, he said.  As for the United Nations, an integral approach meant the participation of various bodies.  The work being done by the ad hoc group of the Economic and Social Council for countries emerging from conflict was related to the work of the Security Council.  Formulas might be explored, such as those mentioned by the representative of Pakistan, to improve the work of the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council.

Council President STEFAN TAFROV (Bulgaria), speaking in his national capacity, said the statement by the Facilitator of the Burundi peace process contained some good news.  A long road had still to be travelled before the goal of a peaceful and stable Burundi could be achieved.  The African Union Mission should be properly supported by the international community and the Council, and it was essential that the ceasefire be implemented country-wide.  The FNL should, therefore, join the peace process.

Concluding Remarks

Mr. ZUMA, responding to comments and questions, said it was clear that the Council appreciated the progress made in Burundi and felt that support for the process was necessary.  The CNDD-FDD was the biggest armed group in the country and its signing of the agreement had taken the peace process in Burundi forward enormously.

Calling for United Nations support for the peace process, he expressed the hope that short cuts could be found to provide assistance more quickly.  Elections were one year away, and it was important that they not be delayed.  Practical support was, therefore, even more urgent.

Noting that almost every speaker had mentioned the FNL issue, he said it had the full attention of the African Union.  The Council should reiterate the specific positions it had taken in calling upon the group to join the peace process.  Everybody must mount pressure on FNL, and if after three months it still did not see itself as part of the process, a collective decision must be taken by the international community on what must be done.  However, there was internal disagreement in the group and a large number of its armed forces had joined CNDD-FDD.

Mr. ROSENTHAL (Guatemala), President of the Economic and Social Council, said that the ad hoc group on Burundi -- Japan, France, Ethiopia, Burundi and South Africa -- had visited that country a week ago.  He had joined them in his capacity as Council President, and the Permanent Mission of Angola had joined as President of the Group of African Countries Emerging from Conflict.  It was hoped that the ad hoc group’s report, which would be the collective opinion of its members, would be ready in early January.

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For information media. Not an official record.