|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
1st Meeting (AM)
BURUNDI EMERGING FROM YEARS OF STRIFE, PEACEBUILDING COMMISSION HEARS AS IT ADOPTS
CONCLUSIONS OF THIRD BIANNUAL REVIEW OF STRATEGIC FRAMEWORK’S IMPLEMENTATION
With efforts under way in Burundi to ensure transparent elections in 2010, entrench democratic principles into national institutions and advance a pivotal ceasefire accord with Forces Nationales de Libération (FNL) rebels, the country was successfully emerging from years of conflict, the Peacebuilding Commission heard today, as it adopted the conclusions of its third biannual review of the implementation of the Strategic Framework for Peacebuilding in Burundi.
Addressing the Commission in New York, Augustin Nsanze, Prime Minister of Foreign Relations and International Cooperation of Burundi, said that, unlike the two previous reports, the third review examined progress made and emerging trends. The environment for the 2010 elections was being set and the United Nations was playing an important part, sending, for example, a delegation to Burundi in late June to support the process and establishing working mechanisms on the ground.
Reviewing Burundi’s progress, he said strides had been made in fighting corruption, though some of its partners were not satisfied with the pace. Still, all clauses were being put into place for the Comprehensive Ceasefire Agreement. The problems of political prisoners were being addressed and the demilitarization of FNL had enabled the integration of 3,500 former combatants into the defence and security forces.
Regarding security, he said efforts to disarm civilians were also moving ahead. Some 1,300 weapons and 14,302 tons of ammunition were turned in from March to June 2009 and a site had been built at the National Defense Force (FDN) base to destroy those arms. The creation of the National Independent Human Rights Commission was on track and the related bill was before Parliament. The justice system was working without interference, as seen by the release of prisoners of conscience, and the Government was determined to fight impunity, clear by its move to set up transitional justice mechanisms.
On land and economy recovery issues, he said a land policy paper, adopted by the Council of Ministers in April, related to the revision and modernization of the Land Tenure Code, the inventory of State-owned lands, the problem of landless people and repatriating people to their land. A strategy for the local Burundi economy ‑‑ including a master plan for tourism and ways to promote the private sector ‑‑ was also being pursued.
Speaking next via video link from Bujumbura, Bintou Keita, DeputyExecutive Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General in Burundi, said that enormous progress had been made in the year since the Commission’s first report. Dialogue among all stakeholders had yielded results, and she congratulated the Government and its international partners for their involvement in the Political Forum of the Coordinating Group of Partners.
Turning to three processes under way ‑‑ demilitarization and reintegration of the FNL, national consultations on the transitional justice system and support for the upcoming electoral process ‑‑ she said the demilitarization process was entering its most crucial phase. It was a complex situation, given the need for the immediate reintegration of 200,000 returnees, for which Burundi’s partners were essential.
However, “peace is not just the absence of war or conflict”, she said, stressing that an environment that promoted justice and social harmony was what truly guaranteed social stability. With Burundi’s recent integration into East Africa, it had taken an important step in meeting its security, political and humanitarian needs.
“The price paid for years of conflict and violence is so high,” she asserted. Conflict prevention was important, especially for those who had taken on the duty of promoting peace. All stakeholders shared in that historic responsibility.
In the ensuing rounds of comments from New York and Bujumbura, representatives of Government and civil society alike welcomed the creation of the new criminal law, the establishment of an independent electoral commission and the launch of the East African Community Customs Union. Some called for a focus on the development aspects of peacebuilding, while others expressed the hope that an electoral road map would soon be outlined.
Several speakers, including delegates from the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States, voiced concern that positive aspects of the new Criminal Code had been overshadowed by other measures criminalizing same-sex relations, and urged further that efforts to combat corruption be made to ensure that cases like that of Ernest Manirumva were conducted in a transparent manner.
Speaking from Bujumbura, a representative of the African Union appealed to civil society, religious groups and the Government to make all efforts so that past tragedies were not repeated. The consensus that prevailed during the creation of the electoral commission needed to be continued so democracy could prevail.
Also speaking from New York were the representatives of Jamaica (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), South Africa, Rwanda, Belgium, Germany, and France.
Burundi Configuration Chair, Peter Maurer (Switzerland), also spoke.
Participating as well was Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office in New York, Ejeviome Eloho Otobo.
Additional speakers from Burundi included representatives of the Burundi diplomatic corps, Belgium (as local representative of the European Union Presidency), International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and World Bank.
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