|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
7236th Meeting (PM)
Successful Elections in Burundi Critical to Overall Strategy against Resurgence
of Violence, Top United Nations Official Tells Security Council
Elections in 2015 would be the “litmus test” of Burundi’s developing democratic processes and stability, the United Nations senior political official in the country told the Security Council this afternoon.
Briefing the 15-member body on the Secretary-General’s 31 July report on the United Nations Office in Burundi (BNUB) (document S/2014/550), Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, who heads that office as Special Representative of the Secretary-General, underlined the centrality of the elections to the overall strategy against the resurgence of violence in Burundi and pointed to the impact the electoral cycle in that country could have on the Great Lakes region.
He expressed optimism over President Pierre Nkurunziza’s declaration that the 2015 elections would be the country’s best, as well as the continued engagement by political parties with the process, noting that current tensions stemmed from the boycotts of the 2010 elections and the political imbalances that had followed.
Although stability currently persisted, complacency was to be avoided, he said, noting that the situation in Burundi “continued to evolve”. It was vital the Government sustain its efforts to create an environment conducive to free, fair and peaceful elections. Mr. Nkurunziza’s call to ensure that authorized political parties could freely undertake their activities throughout the country was appreciated, as was the public condemnation by the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy–Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) party’s Chairperson of unlawful acts carried out by youths affiliated to his party.
Those “welcome and timely developments” had to be sustained, he urged, and the new Electoral Code, signing of the Code of Conduct for the elections, and the release of the electoral calendar were positive milestones in the journey to the 2015 vote. However, he remained concerned about deep sociopolitical divisions in the country, with deep rifts between the Government and opposition parties and between and within opposition groups. There was a lack of political dialogue on major national issues, and restrictive laws on freedom of expression.
Peace dividends were fragile so scaled-up efforts were needed to ensure that gains made were lasting, he stressed, noting that responsibility for creating and nurturing the right climate for credible elections lay with all actors, especially the Government. The right environment had to persist throughout the ballot, with observers deployed and funded in a timely manner in order to achieve success.
Outlining some of the steps needed to achieve the goal, he said no efforts should be spared in achieving the promises made at Geneva, chiefly the “Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers 2”, because events impacted the Government just as they affected the population. Though accusations of Government interference in the management of some political parties remained, the overall political context had improved and confidence in electoral and judicial institutions had grown.
He said preparations were under way to close the United Nations mission on 31 December, guided by a Transitional Steering Group, which enjoyed broad representation and on which Mr. Onanga-Anyanga said he served as Chair. Broad-based consultations were ongoing, including on the establishment of a United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) standalone presence after the United Nations Office departed, as was expected under the Joint Transition Plan.
The representative of Burundi stressed the difficulties faced by Governments in making decisions where all options had drawbacks. He welcomed the praise for Burundi in the report but pointed out that many of the shortcomings it highlighted, like obstruction of public freedoms, were incorrect. He added that the Imbonerakure had not received military training in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and it was not responsible for crimes as an organized group.
He agreed with the report’s statistic on support for the CNDD-FDD, which pointed to 85 per cent of the population backing the party, and he added that such a figure made it highly likely that there would be a broad mix of types of people within it. Blacklisting the party in power ran the risk of endangering intellectual honesty and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General should remain suspicious of reports he received.
He stressed the importance that a country’s leadership remain firm in upholding its laws. Institutions granted constitutional legitimacy but political legitimacy was exercised through the exercise of authority. Without that authority, it lost its legitimacy. A society accustomed to digressions by its Government would not know where limits lay.
He pointed out that freedom of expression in countries like France was limited by laws against anti-Semitism, racism, and defamation. Handling such transgressions was the duty of the police and the judiciary. What the report had identified as obstruction of public freedoms, most Burundians saw as crime prevention and the maintenance of law and order.
The meeting began at 3 p.m. and ended at 3:20 p.m.
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