|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6677th Meeting* (AM)
Burundi Remains Calm Overall, despite Poverty, Unemployment, Isolated Violence,
Special Representative Tells Security Council
Government Official Pledges Judicial, Rule of Law, Security Reforms
Despite extreme poverty, rampant unemployment and isolated violent incidents, Burundi’s overall political and security landscapes were “calm” with much anticipated for the Government’s long-term vision, the top United Nations official in that country told the Security Council today.
“The road out of past violence is a long and difficult one,” Karin Landgren, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Burundi, said during a briefing on recent developments in the country. “For a country that had experienced many years of conflict, Burundi deserved to be commended for its efforts.” Of particular note was the Government’s desire for dialogue with extra-parliamentary parties, the establishment of the National Independent Human Rights Commission and the Ombudsman office and the passing of a bill to set up a truth and reconciliation commission.
She expressed concern, however, that the bill did not consider national recommendations to include non-Burundians, civil society and others as members of the Commission. Also of concern was that independence in the media, civil society and the judiciary had been restrained, and that politically motivated killings had marred the consolidation of peace. The United Nations Office in Burundi (BNUB) had documented a further 11 cases of suspected extrajudicial killings, bringing the total number to 57 in the period between 1 January and 30 November 2011.
In light of reliable information that some opposition groups and parties were recruiting and undertaking paramilitary training, she urged all actors to reject violence. However, the upcoming trial of suspects in the 18 September killings of 39 people on the outskirts of Bujumbura was an “isolated incident”, she said, adding that it would be a “litmus test” of the independence and impartiality of Burundi’s judiciary.
She said Burundi’s one-year chairmanship of the East African Community (EAC) had concluded last month with a summit in Bujumbura that reflected optimism, hope and determination, adding, however, that Burundi’s capacity to derive benefit from the EAC continued to need strengthening. Support for the country’s pursuit of full integration into the subregional bloc was part of the United Nations mandate following a smooth transition from the former United Nations Integrated Office in Burundi (BINUB) to the “light-footprint” BNUB last January. When the mission phased out, she said, it would be important that the United Nations and other partners continued to provide support, including to strengthening national institutions. “ Burundi’s physical economic, social and legal pressures must be addressed and managed so as to reinforce, and not undermine, the consolidation of the country’s hard-won peace,” she said.
Also briefing the Council, a senior Government official said that part of his country’s problem of violence was the ready availability of illicit arms, which was exacerbated by porous borders and existing arms caches. Adolphe Nahayo, Director of Regional and International Organizations in the Ministry of External Relations and International Cooperation, said the Government had undertaken brainstorming sessions on lasting security reform. Regarding justice and the rule of law, he reassured Burundi’s partners that cases pending before the courts would be brought to a conclusion, despite funding constraints that had sometimes slowed the judicial process.
He went on to emphasize that, while the Government respected freedom of speech, it did not condone incitement to violence or misinformation campaigns led by private associations or the media, as mentioned in the 31 October situation report issued by the Ministry of Public Security. The Government had appealed to extra-parliamentary opposition party members in exile to return home and take part in talks, but some partners had rejected those appeals, calling instead for negotiations and suggesting that there was no legitimate leadership in Burundi.
He said that, through its long-term vision, Burundi aimed to create a nation well integrated into the EAC. The second phase of its poverty-reduction strategy was aimed at ensuring gender equality, job creation and improved social services, as well as better management of space and the environment, in harmony with sustainable development. Without waiting for the implementation of that second phase, the Government had already strengthened the Land Code, including by issuing a village-management policy to free up arable land, he added.
Paul Seger ( Switzerland), Chair of the Burundi configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, said that, with the situation in the country evolving, the Commission would increasingly emphasize the mobilization of resources for the poverty-reduction strategy. Commending the Government’s achievements, including the establishment of the National Human Rights Commission and the pursuit of transitional justice mechanisms as critical to building confidence between the authorities and the people, he said that his October visit had confirmed that considerable challenges remained in consolidating peace, particularly in terms of the political gulf between the Government and the extra-parliamentary opposition, as well as in the human rights and socio-economic situations.
Indeed, socio-economic integration was a pillar of peace consolidation and reintegrating conflict-affected groups into society would reduce the risk that they would take up arms again, he continued. Similarly, employment would give young people a sense of purpose, he added, highlighting the example of a former Forces nationales de libération (FNL) combatant who had created a local rice-production operation that had turned a $7,000 profit in one season.
For its part, the Peacebuilding Fund had recently disbursed $10 million to support such projects, he said. While welcome, that disbursement was insufficient to meet funding demand and an additional $15 million was needed in the short term. To that end, there were efforts to organize international fundraising events next year, he said, noting also the willingness of the World Bank and the African Development Bank to support Burundi’s economic recovery.
But economic and social development would never prove durable unless Government institutions were strengthened, he said, urging it to accelerate progress towards political dialogue, human rights protections and good governance, including by allowing human rights defenders and journalists to carry out their work without harassment. Reports that opposition members had been killed by State authorities were worrying and must be investigated seriously, he stressed. At the same time, the opposition should distance itself from all forms of violence and participate constructively in the national political debate.
He stressed that, although the Burundi Configuration had become obsolete and was already preparing for the transition, the Commission would continue to support the country’s socio-economic development, including through efforts to attract investment and to support national transitional justice and human rights institutions. Once those tasks were achieved, it would be time for a break to take stock and determine how the Commission would proceed.
The meeting began at 11:05 a.m. and ended at 11:47 a.m.
The Security Council met this morning to consider the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Office in Burundi (document S/2011/751), dated 11 October 2011, which provides an update on major developments since his seventh and final report on the former United Nations Integrated Office in Burundi (document S/2010/608) of 30 November 2010. It also assesses peace consolidation challenges and describes the activities of the United Nations in helping to meet them.
The Secretary-General recommends extending that the mandate of the United Nations Office in Burundi for one year effective from 1 January 2012, and pledges that, in keeping with Council resolution 1959 (2010), his Special Representative will confer with Council members next year on indicative benchmarks for BNUB’s future evolution into a United Nations country team presence. Burundi continued to make progress in terms of consolidating peace and stability, notably in its emphasis on defining clear strategies in critical sectors and in establishing independent institutions for human rights and mediation. The country has remained free of large-scale violence but continues to experience a disturbing underlying trend of apparent extrajudicial killings and other violent crimes.
According to the report, strides have been made in preparing for transitional justice mechanisms intended to help Burundi’s people reconcile with each other and with their own history, as well as to ensure justice for the most serious past crimes. Truth, reconciliation and justice processes will need the commitment and participation of all groups in order to succeed, and the technical committee charged with preparing for the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission in January 2012 has called for broad consultations before a law is adopted.
The Secretary-General expresses concern that the political atmosphere has been strained over the past year by the lack of dialogue between the Government and parties that pulled out of the 2010 elections. While the Government has intensified efforts to convene discussions with registered political parties, the continued killing of supporters of Agathon Rwasa’s FNL have contributed to deepened unease and mistrust, as have the arrest and harassment of members of civil society. Reports of FNL paramilitary activities in neighbouring countries have also fuelled tensions, the report adds.
Calling on all parties to renew their renunciation of violence and engage fully and speedily in efforts to normalize political relations, the Secretary-General pledges continued United Nations support in order to secure the necessary foundation for successful multiparty elections in 2015.
Engendering rapid, sustainable and equitable growth will require, in particular, investment in the energy sector, infrastructure and agriculture, the report says. Commending the Government for improving the business climate, it appeals to members of the donor community to “stay the course” since a strong and sustained partnership between the Government and development partners remains essential for the well-being of the population and for stability. The Peacebuilding Commission has provided important support to the peace consolidation process since 2006, and the Peacebuilding Fund has made a significant supplementary contribution this year for the reintegration of people affected by war.
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* The 6676th Meeting was closed.