Differing Political Positions Continue to Fuel Deterioration of Socioeconomic Situation, Special Envoy Tells Security Council

SC/12929
26 July 2017
8013th Meeting (AM)

Differing Political Positions Continue to Fuel Deterioration of Socioeconomic Situation, Special Envoy Tells Security Council

Inter-Burundian Dialogue Remains on Track,
Permanent Representative Affirms, Citing Recommendations Contained in Final Report

Burundi’s socioeconomic Situation continued to deteriorate due to the ongoing political situation in the East African country, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy said today as he briefed the Security Council on developments there.

Special Envoy Michel Kafando said that during his June visit, the national authorities had expressed confidence in their ability to conduct national affairs in a peaceful fashion, said the Government believed that the general situation was calm and had condemned foreign interference in Burundi’s internal affairs.

Opposition leaders, however, were concerned about “authoritarian excesses” and were calling for greater international involvement in favour of an inclusive dialogue without pre-conditions, he reported, adding that such a dialogue would entail the participation of all Burundians.  The opposition also called for suspension of the constitutional review process currently under way, and for an end to violations of their basic rights.

He went on to state that unemployment compelled Burundians, especially young ones, to leave home for neighbouring countries.  Whereas the security situation had been improving since the beginning of 2017, grenade attacks had occurred in recent weeks, resulting in several casualties.

The first priority was to promote an inclusive dialogue, he said, emphasizing the crucial need for the Government to allow the involvement of the opposition, both in exile and inside Burundi.  The Arusha Agreement must remain the cornerstone of all efforts, he said, stressing calm collective action on the part of African leaders, including those within the subregion, and by the United Nations.  That would be essential in persuading the Government to accept measures intended to calm the situation and encourage the regime to engage in the inclusive inter-Burundian dialogue, he said.

Reporting on his recent visit to the country, Jürg Lauber (Switzerland), Chair of the Burundi configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, said his visit had focused primarily on socioeconomic cooperation and had included a retreat aimed at determining the main socioeconomic challenges in the three priority areas of agriculture, education and health.  Whereas macroeconomic analysis had not been the event’s main focus, the indicators cited during the retreat had shown the concerning nature of the situation, he said.  In the agricultural sector, participants had identified low productivity, the impact of climate change, insufficient infrastructure, the lack of mechanization and fertilizers, and plant diseases as being among the main challenges.

Burundi’s representative said anti-constitutional attempts to seize power were “inadmissible”, recalling that the 2015 attempted coup d’état in his country remained a nightmare from which the Burundian people were trying to awaken.  Emphasizing that the inter-Burundian dialogue remained on track and was not at a standstill, as some had suggested, he said the domestic process had ended and the final report submitted to the national authorities contained recommendations arising from discussions with more than 26,000 Burundians.

The convening of numerous dialogue workshops across the country were another promising development, he continued, noting that all those processes were complementary, reinforcing a culture of dialogue within the country.  A democratic culture was gradually gaining ground, despite some new challenges yet to be addressed.  Security remained the cornerstone for all Burundians and they had committed decisively to upholding peace, he stressed.  As a result, Burundi was calm today, although the struggle against common crimes was one in which all should engage.  Stressing that no country was perfect on human rights, he said none should feel compelled to hand down lessons to others, particularly since Burundi was working to promote and protect human rights in an especially difficult post-crisis environment.

Also speaking today were representatives of Uruguay, Japan, Kazakhstan and Bolivia.

The meeting began at 10:14 a.m. and concluded at 11:17 a.m.

Briefings

MICHEL KAFANDO, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Burundi, said that on arrival in Bujumbura, the capital, on 27 June, he had been met by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and by President Pierre Nkurunziza, with whom he had held a private, hour-long courtesy meeting.  He said that he had also met with other political players, representatives of civil society and religious leaders, as well as members of the diplomatic corps and the United Nations system.  He added that he had also conducted high-level meetings in the United Republic of Tanzania, and on the sidelines of the African Union Summit held in Addis Ababa.

From those meetings, it seemed clear that there were different assessments of the political situation in Burundi, he said, noting that the national authorities had expressed confidence in their ability to conduct their country’s affairs in a peaceful fashion.  The Government believed the general situation was calm and condemned foreign interference in their internal affairs, he reported.  Opposition leaders, however, were concerned about the current “authoritarian excesses” and called for greater involvement by the international community in favour of an inclusive dialogue without pre-conditions and entailing the participation of all Burundians.  The opposition also called for suspension of the constitutional review process currently under way, and for an end to violations of their basic rights.

Burundi’s socioeconomic situation continued to deteriorate due to the political situation, he said.  Unemployment, especially among young people, compelled them to leave Burundi for neighbouring countries.  The security situation, had improved since the beginning of 2017, although there had been grenade attacks in recent weeks that had caused several causalities.  The first priority was to promote an inclusive dialogue, he said, emphasizing the crucial need for the Government to allow the involvement of the exiled, as well as the internal, opposition.  Stressing that the Arusha Agreement must remain the cornerstone of all efforts, he said calm and collective action on the part of African leaders, including those within the subregion, and by the United Nations would be essential in persuading the Government to accept measures intended to calm the situation and encourage the regime to engage in the inclusive inter-Burundian dialogue.

JÜRG LAUBER (Switzerland), Chair of the Burundi configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, reported that his fifth visit to the country, from 10 to 13 July, had focused primarily on socioeconomic cooperation.  The security situation in Bujumbura had seemed calm, although some cases of violence had been reported during his stay, he said, adding that he had heard reports about the prevalence of a climate of fear and repression.  Many interlocutors had highlighted the importance of the East African Community-led dialogue and the interactions among political parties, while the economic situation had been characterized as deteriorating.

He went on to report that Burundi’s international partners had described the broad range of their engagement with the country, covering humanitarian assistance, structural support for the health service and investment in the energy sector.  However, partners had been confronted with challenges, such as lack of accessibility to foreign currencies, the absence of reliable data and the restrictive laws on non-governmental organizations, among other obstacles.  A key event had been the socioeconomic retreat on 12 July, which the Burundi configuration had launched with the aim of specifying the main socioeconomic challenges in the three priority areas of agriculture, education and health.

Macroeconomic analysis had not been the event’s main focus, but the indicators cited during the retreat had shown that the situation remained concerning, he continued.  In the agricultural sector, participants had identified low productivity, the impact of climate change, insufficient infrastructure, the lack of mechanization and fertilizers, and plant diseases as being among the main challenges.  The ongoing malaria epidemic was a priority subject among health experts, and other challenges included the high mortality of mothers and small children, HIV/AIDS, demographic growth and malnutrition.  The education sector faced insufficient school infrastructure and the lack of school materials and teachers, he said.

Participants had also formulated some general recommendations, such as the need to obtain more reliable socioeconomic and macroeconomic data, the need to align socioeconomic priorities with the Sustainable Development Goals and greater involvement by Burundi’s international partners in elaborating the National Development Plan.  He said that he had come to a number of conclusions based on his visit, including the need for the international community to continue to follow developments in Burundi carefully.

The mediation efforts by President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and former President Benjamin Mkapa of the United Republic of Tanzania, on behalf of the East African Community, deserved the international community’s full support, he said, emphasizing the need for a frank and open discussion on socioeconomic cooperation between the Government and its international partners.  It was also important to pay greater attention to the question of national reconciliation.  He concluded by underlining the importance of a conducive environment for organizing peaceful and democratic elections in 2020 that would include full and equal participation by women.

Statements

ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) said dialogue was the only way forward to transparent, inclusive and peaceful elections.  Urging all parties to commit to and implement the proposed road map as soon as possible, he expressed regret that the Government had not yet resumed communications with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and called for investigations into human rights violations.

KORO BESSHO (Japan), pointing to the fragile situation and worsening socioeconomic reality in Burundi, called upon the Government to address those and other related concerns, emphasizing that it was in the country’s interest to maintain a cooperative relationship with the United Nations, the European Union and other partners.

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan), noting the slow progress of political discussions, called for greater involvement by regional partners, urging the Government to sign the memorandum of understanding with the African Union for the deployment of a mission.  Concerned about the human rights situation in the Great Lakes Region, he said relevant actors must scale up their response to the needs of refugees and the internally displaced.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) encouraged all parties to support the mediation process and work collectively towards a settlement.  Acknowledging current efforts, he encouraged the parties to agree on the proposed road map as a path forward, and welcomed the African Union’s recent commitment to finding a peaceful solution to the crisis.

ALBERT SHINGIRO (Burundi) emphasized that the inter-Burundian dialogue remained on track and some progress had been made.  It was not at a standstill, as some had suggested, but rather, it was evolving.  The domestic process had ended and the final report submitted to the national authorities contained recommendations that were the fruit of discussions with more than 26,000 Burundians.  Another promising development was the organization of numerous dialogue workshops across the country, he said, noting that all those processes were complementary, reinforcing a culture of dialogue within the country.  There was no solid pillar, other than free, transparent and peaceful elections, upon which the rule of law could rest.

Describing anti-constitutional attempts to gain power as “inadmissible”, he said they would make no progress, adding that the 2015 attempted coup d’état remained a nightmare from which the Burundian people were trying to awaken.  A democratic culture was gradually gaining ground, despite some new challenges yet to be addressed.  The President had called upon political movements to rise to the occasion and review their internal policies in order to raise their constituents’ awareness of the importance of democratic principles and the need to avoid pollution of the national political environment.

The President had also requested that civil society organizations not interfere with the political situation and not provoke dissent of any kind, or incite murder, as seen in the past insurgency, he recalled.  Calling upon religious and faith leaders to continue their missions and refrain from engaging in political activities, he emphasized that such matters were solely and exclusively within the purview of sovereignty and should not be discussed in the context of any non-national frameworks.

Security remained the cornerstone for all Burundians, and they had committed decisively to upholding peace, he said.  As a result, Burundi was calm today, although the struggle against common crimes was one in which all should engage.  Stressing that no country in the world was perfect on human rights, he said no country should feel compelled to hand down lessons to others, particularly since Burundi was working to promote and protect human rights in an especially difficult post-crisis environment.  International cooperation and mutually beneficial partnerships could contribute to the protection of human rights, and in that context, political pressure must give way to legitimate dialogue, he said.

He went on to note the recent adoption of measures to ease prison overcrowding and promote national reconciliation.  Furthermore, he stressed, the Government had never closed any private media organization, despite accusations to the contrary.  Indeed, more than 20 private radio stations continued to operate.  As for the situation of refugees, he expressed concern that some of those who had left Burundi had been taken hostage for purely political or business reasons, or to fuel the crisis, which was increasingly more contrived than real, he said.

Noting that Burundi had expeditiously consented to the Special Envoy’s visit, he said the country expected that their future relations would uphold the principles and practices of the United Nations and protect the future hopes of Burundi’s people.  The negotiations seeking a mutually agreed settlement on re-establishing a local branch of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) was under way, with the country hoping to finalize the text that would govern their future cooperation.  He highlighted that military observers of the African Union had already been deployed on the ground and were carrying out their functions without any hindrance.

For information media. Not an official record.