|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
5897th Meeting (PM)
SECURITY COUNCIL HEARS MIXED MESSAGES OF CONCERN, OPTIMISM
AS IT CONSIDERS SITUATION IN BURUNDI
While the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission’s Country-Specific Meetings on Burundi expressed concern today about the situation there, the country’s representative told the Security Council there was cause for optimism.
Briefing the Council upon his return from Burundi, Johan L. Løvald ( Norway), Chair of the Burundi Meetings, said the recent fighting between Government forces and fighters of the Palipehutu-Forces nationales de libération (FNL) rebel movement was a source of deep concern, but their return to Bujumbura last week was promising. However, without their return to the Joint Verification and Monitoring Mechanism and full implementation of the Comprehensive Ceasefire Agreement of 2006, peace consolidation gains would be in jeopardy.
He said there was also concern about the recent political crisis that continued to block the work of Parliament. A continued deadlock not only undermined trust in the political system, it would also have a negative impact on international efforts to assist Burundi. Successful national elections in 2010 would be important for development and it was important in that regard to establish a national electoral commission. The Peacebuilding Commission invited the Government to initiate the process.
Because Burundi was a densely populated country, the return of a large number of refugees would exacerbate the already existing pressure on land, which could be a source of tension, he said. The Peacebuilding Commission would hold a thematic meeting on land issues on 27 May, with a particular focus on the return of refugees and internally displaced persons.
He said that Burundi, one of the world’s poorest countries, was enduring extra suffering under the present international economic situation, which complicated peacebuilding, underscoring the need for continued international support. The Peacebuilding Commission had focused on how to help the country respond to its peacebuilding priorities and was now preparing for the first biannual review of the implementation of the Monitoring and Tracking Mechanism for the Strategic Framework for Peacebuilding, to be held at the end of June. The Commission was committed to undertaking urgent action, should that review reveal gaps.
Urging the international community to reiterate its pledge of solidarity, he said Burundi’s security situation must be given special and ongoing attention, with a focus on how best to support full implementation of the Comprehensive Ceasefire Agreement. The Peacebuilding Commission welcomed the statement of the Political Directorate of 18 May in which the Government and Palipehutu-FNL reiterated their commitment to respect the terms of the Agreement of Principles towards lasting peace, security and stability, signed on 18 June 2006, and the Comprehensive Ceasefire Agreement of 7 September 2006. It also welcomed the parties’ agreement that the current hostilities should cease immediately in the event that the Government and Palipehutu-FNL respected all their obligations.
Describing those commitments as the crux of the matter, he said the primary responsibility for fulfilling them rested on the parties. Yet, the Regional Initiative and the South African Facilitation had taken on a crucial role, and the Council and international community must support their efforts fully. The Peacebuilding Commission encouraged the Secretary-General to consider bringing the full weight of his good offices to bear should the situation warrant it. The Council must follow the present situation closely.
Youssef Mahmoud ( Burundi) said the Secretary-General’s report gave the impression that the country was once again engaged in a new cycle of violence at a moment when the international community had been hoping for a recovery. Fortunately, further events since the issuance of the report had given cause for optimism, including FNL’s long-awaited return to the negotiating table and the resumption of the Joint Verification and Monitoring Mechanism. That optimism might fade again, unless useful steps were taken to consolidate what had been achieved. The Council and the international community must help in seeing to it that there was no way to turn backwards.
Emphasizing that the prospect of a new war must be banished forever, he said that could be possible if FNL Chairman Agathon Rwasa returned home and participated in national political life. Political parties that had been taking a warlike stance should be made to see reason. That also applied to factions, groups and individuals, who, hiding behind an ill-conceived but as yet unchangeable Constitution, preferred to put the Government to the test.
A threat to peace could also stem from discontent, even despair, engendered by the uncertainty faced by former combatants who lacked sufficient means to return to society, he warned, stressing that their living standards must be raised.
Addressing the question of transitional justice, he said judicial reform had not yet achieved the desired results, and appealed for support in advancing that process. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission had had difficulties in getting started because some groups and individuals who were not prepared to face the evidence against them preferred to confuse the issue by avoiding their responsibility and trying to gain support against the process.
The meeting started at 4 p.m. and adjourned at 4:25 p.m.
Before the Security Council was the Secretary-General’s third report on the United Nations Integrated Office in Burundi (document S/2008/330), dated 15 May, which updates the situation in the six months since his report of 23 November 2007 (document S/2008/682) until 7 May.
In the report, the Secretary-General cites the recent rapid relapse into violent conflict as “alarming evidence” of the extreme fragility of the situation in Burundi. Clashes between Government forces and the Palipehutu-Forces nationales de libération (FNL) are causing the loss of innocent lives and the new cycle of violence threatens to undo all the progress made since the signing of the Arusha Agreement eight years ago. Furthermore, cross-border activity on the part of armed groups has implications for the whole Great Lakes region.
Noting that the Government and the FNL leadership share both responsibility and opportunity to end the decade of fighting, the Secretary-General calls on FNL effectively and without precondition to participate in the work of the Joint Verification and Monitoring Mechanism and the Political Directorate, while urging the Government to give implementation of the Comprehensive Ceasefire Agreement the priority it deserves and to spare no effort to reach mutually acceptable solutions on the issues hindering implementation. Both parties are strongly encouraged to adhere strictly to the provisions of the Programme of Action they have endorsed.
According to the report, the Regional Peace Initiative and the South African Facilitation are the guarantors of the Burundi peace process, and the personal involvement of leaders in those initiatives remains essential in helping the parties overcome major obstacles to advancing it further. The critical role of the Political Directorate in helping to address the political and socio-economic dimensions of implementing the Programme of Action should be strengthened, and its modalities reviewed to ensure the constant engagement of both parties. The establishment in February of the Group of Special Envoys for Burundi is a welcome development towards ensuring a coherent common international approach towards the peace process.
The Secretary-General urges the Council to consider additional measures, in consultation with the regional mechanisms, in the event of further delays in implementing the Programme of Action. As a precautionary measure, the United Nations Integrated Office in Burundi and the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) have been instructed to undertake contingency planning should the situation deteriorate further. If developments on the ground so require, the Secretary-General will provide the Council with specific recommendations.
In summary, the Secretary-General notes that successful national elections in 2005, the signing of the Comprehensive Ceasefire Agreement with FNL and the withdrawal of the United Nations Mission in Burundi at the Government’s request may all have created the impression that the country was well on its way to normality. But major governance, security, reconstruction and socio-economic challenges remain to be addressed. Among conditions causing continuing concern are repeated and widespread human rights abuses by elements of the national security services. The President’s recent commitment to bring uniformed personnel involved in such actions to justice is encouraging, as is his commitment to end impunity.
The engagement of the Peacebuilding Commission in Burundi provides valuable support to efforts aimed at promoting stability, the report states. The adoption of the Monitoring and Tracking Mechanism in December marked another step towards strengthening the relationship between Burundi and the Commission, which should remain constructively engaged and help energize the international community to provide the resources required to cover critical gaps. Causes and potential triggers of insecurity should be urgently addressed.
Finally, the Secretary-General calls for corrective actions to enable the Tripartite Steering Committee for National Consultations on Transitional Justice Mechanisms to carry out its mandate. A separate report will be presented to the Council on implementation of resolution 1606 (2005), including recommendations offered in light of new developments concerning the future role of the United Nations in supporting transitional justice.
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