Expressing concern over what it called grave threats to security in Burundi as elections approached, the Security Council this afternoon called for the urgent holding of inclusive dialogue between parties there to create the conditions — and determine an appropriate schedule — for peaceful and credible polls.
Through a statement read out by Ramlan Bin Ibrahim of Malaysia, Council President for June, the 15-member body strongly condemned violence and human rights violations in the country ahead of the planned communal, presidential and senatorial elections, and welcomed efforts to address the crisis by the East African Community and the African Union Peace and Security Council, among other regional actors.
Through the text, the Council emphasized that dialogue should address protecting freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, including the right of members of the political opposition to campaign freely; the release of those arbitrarily detained following demonstrations; respect for the rule of law; the urgent disarmament of armed groups allied with political parties and all matters on which the parties disagree.
The Council took note of the African Union’s statement that political dialogue to this point had not made adequate progress on those matters and that the current situation could jeopardize important gains recorded since the signing of the Arusha Agreement for peace in Burundi and the ceasefire of 2003, affecting the stability of the region.
It also took note of the Union’s Communiqué stating that the date of the election should be set by consensus between the Burundian parties, in the spirit of the East African Community’s statement of 31 May 2015 — which requested postponement — and on the basis of a technical assessment to be undertaken by the United Nations.
The Council welcomed the African Union’s decision to deploy human rights observers in Burundi and to put in place military experts to verify the disarming of the youth groups, as well as to send an election observer mission if conditions for free and fair elections were met, with a ministerial delegation to visit by the first week of July to assess those conditions.
The Council called on the Electoral Mission of the United Nations in Burundi (MENUB) to fully perform its role and to swiftly report to the Security Council before, during and after the elections. Reiterating concern over the difficult situation of refugees from Burundi in neighbouring States, the Council called on the international community to provide humanitarian assistance and urged the Government to create the conditions conducive to their return.
After the reading of that statement, Burundi’s representative, Albert Shingiro, took the floor, affirming that his Government appreciated the efforts of the international community to assist in ensuring credible and peaceful elections, but that it was not possible to delay the polls yet again without creating what he called a constitutional vacuum. In fact, the electoral process had already begun and would continue through 15 July presidential polls. All parties were participating except for those he called “the radical opposition”.
Nowhere in the Constitution, he stressed, was it written that dates would be decided through consensus dialogue; the Constitution provided for the Electoral Commission to set the dates. He stressed that dialogue could not take place outside the constitutional context.
In previous dialogue, he said, the Government had come up with a great many concessions, while the opposition were what he called “spoiled children, not content with anything”. Dialogue connected to the peace process would continue beyond the elections; regional facilitators were awaited for that purpose.
He said that the Government had documented efforts of plans to organize violent demonstrations followed by a coup d'état attempt, as had happened in May, as well as of subsequent planning to create a situation similar to that in Côte d’Ivoire, where elections were delayed repeatedly until there was a vacuum that resulted in turmoil. The aim of some groups was to create a power vacuum that would then require a transitional government, in which they would have positions that they could not get through a vote.
In regard to disarmament of political groups, he said that a significant amount of weapons had been collected by the Government, and arrangements for security for the elections had been made. On the matters of refugees, he said that the Government had already been encouraging them to return.
He finally paid tribute to Burundians who died today in Somalia while contributing to African Union peacekeeping efforts there.
The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and adjourned at 3:30 p.m.
The full text of presidential statement S/PRST/2015/13 reads as follows:
“The Security Council reiterates its deep concern regarding the grave security and political situation in Burundi against the backdrop of the forthcoming, communal, presidential and senatorial elections and for the impact of the crisis in the region. The Security Council strongly condemns all acts of violence and human rights violations and abuses and recalls that those responsible for such violence should be held accountable and brought to justice.
“The Security Council welcomes the regional and subregional efforts aimed at addressing the crisis, and in this regard takes note of the conclusions of the East African Community (EAC) summits held on 13 May and 31 May 2015 in Dar-es-Salaam, of the communiqué issued by the African Union Peace and Security Council (AU PSC) after its Summit held on 13 June 2015 in Johannesburg, South Africa, and of the letters sent by the Government of Burundi to the Security Council.
“The Security Council pays tribute to the relentless efforts of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General (SESG) for the Great Lakes Region, Saïd Djinnit and recalls that Burundian stakeholders had made some progress in a difficult dialogue thanks to SESG Djinnit’s able facilitation.
“The Security Council takes note of the African Union’s statement that the political dialogue has not produced expected results and that the current situation could jeopardize the important gains recorded following the signing of the Arusha Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Burundi and the Global Ceasefire agreement of 2003, and affect the stability of the region.
“The Security Council welcomes the resumption of the dialogue between all the Burundian parties, under the facilitation of the AU, the UN, the EAC and the ICGLR. In this regard, the Security Council welcomes the appointment of Professor Ibrahima Fall by the AU, as the new Special Representative of the chairperson of the Commission for the Great Lakes region and Head of the AU Liaison office in Bujumbura. The Security Council also welcomes the arrival in Bujumbura of United Nations SRSG for Central Africa and Head of UNOCA, Abdoulaye Bathily, which allows for the international mediation to immediately assist all Burundian parties to expedite the search for a consensual political solution to the crisis.
“While acknowledging that further steps must continue to be taken by parties to adhere to the decisions taken by the EAC and the AU PSC, the Council calls on the Burundian parties to urgently participate in an inclusive dialogue which should focus, in the spirit of the Arusha Agreements, and the Constitution, on the measures to be taken to create conditions conducive to the organization of free, fair, transparent and credible elections.
“The Council takes note of the statement in the AU PSC Communiqué of 13 June that the date of the election should be set by consensus between the Burundian parties, in the spirit of the EAC’s communiqué of 31 May 2015 requesting a postponement of the elections, and on the basis of a technical assessment to be undertaken by the United Nations.
“The Security Council emphasizes that the dialogue should address all matters on which the parties disagree. The Security Council further emphasizes that this dialogue should address concerns related to the reinstatement of private media; the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, in particular freedoms of expression and of peaceful assembly, including for members of the political opposition to campaign freely, as guaranteed by the Constitution of Burundi; the release of those arbitrarily detained following demonstrations; the respect for the rule of the law; and the urgent disarmament of all armed youth groups allied with political parties, as reflected in the conditions of the EAC communiqué of 31 May 2015, conditions to be met prior to the holding of elections.
“The Security Council welcomes the commitment of the AU and the Chairperson of the AU Commission to fully assume the responsibilities stemming from its role as Guarantor of the Arusha Agreement, as well as that of the region not to stand by in case the situation deteriorates.
“In this regard, the Security Council welcomes the decision of the AU to immediately deploy human rights observers and other civilian personnel; to deploy AU military experts to verify the process of disarming all armed youth groups allied with political parties, which will submit regular reports on the implementation of the disarmament process, and to deploy an AU election observer mission if conditions for the organization of free, fair, transparent and credible elections are met. The Council urges the Government of Burundi and other relevant actors to extend their full cooperation to these processes.
“The Security Council also welcomes the AU PSC’s decision to send, by the first week of July, a ministerial delegation including the Commission, to assess the implementation of the conditions required by EAC, the AU and the Council for the holding of the elections.
“The Council calls on the Electoral Mission of the United Nations in Burundi (MENUB) to fully and actively pursue the implementation of its mandate in accordance with resolution 2137 (2014) including to swiftly report to the Security Council before, during and after the elections.
“The Security Council reiterates its concern about the difficult situation of the Burundian refugees who fled their country into the neighbouring States, commends the host countries (Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and [United Republic of] Tanzania), as well as humanitarian agencies, for their support to the affected populations, and calls upon the international community to provide the necessary humanitarian assistance. The Council urges the Government of Burundi to create the conditions conducive to their early return.
“The Security Council calls on all actors in the region the preserve the safety and security of populations in the region.”