The United Nations Electoral Observation Mission in Burundi (MENUB) began working in Burundi on 1 January 2015, as mandated in Security Council resolution 2137 (2014). The Mission was set up at the request of the Government of Burundi to report on the electoral process in the country. Civil unrest erupted in April 2015 in Bujumbura after the ruling party elected President Pierre Nkurunziza as its candidate. Since then, hundreds of people have reportedly been killed. Some 220,000 people have sought refuge in neighbouring countries and thousands more have been displaced within the country. While elections were considered relatively peaceful and conducted adequately, the UN reported that the overall environment was “not conducive” to an inclusive, free and credible process. The UN Electoral Observation Mission in Burundi (MENUB) concluded its mandate on 18 November and its operations drew to a close on 31 December 2015.
On 9 November 2015, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the appointment of Jamal Benomar as his Special Adviser, who has since deployed his team in Burundi and is working with the Government to support a “credible and inclusive political dialogue” and advise the authorities on addressing security concerns.
The United Nations has supported previous electoral processes in the country. In 2005, the UN Operations (ONUB) organized polls in the context of the country emerging from conflict, and provided electoral support again in 2010. The former Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, was a member of a strategic consultative committee which aimed to assess key aspects of international community assistance to the process. The Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) availed resources for the production of 1,000,000 identity cards. The UN Development Program (UNDP) was also a member of key electoral technical committees and supported fund mobilization.
Reconciliation, equitable economic growth and effective institutions were among the core objectives of the assistance provided by the United Nations Office in Burundi
(BNUB) which completed its mandate in December 2014.
Progress since the end of civil war in the 1990s
Despite ongoing difficulties, Burundi has taken important strides forward since the war in which ethnic violence between Hutus and Tutsis ravaged the country in the 1990s. Peace accords signed in Arusha, Tanzania in 2000 envisioned a new constitution with an alternating presidency and ethnically balanced institutions designed to blunt the potential for conflict.
A first set of democratic elections came off successfully in 2005 under the watchful presence of BINUB’s blue helmets. Subsequent cease-fires have brought remaining rebel groups into the political process despite flare-ups.
With UN support, five elections were conducted in 2010, from the communal to the national level. One result was a record representation of women in public office -- over a third of elected officials and almost half of the government ministers.
Through Security Council resolution 2090 (2013), BNUB was mandated to support the Government in promoting and facilitating political dialogue between national actors so as to create a conducive environment for free and fair elections in 2015.
BNUB facilitated dialogue between the Government and the extra-parliamentary opposition, and helped the Government of Burundi to professionalize its security forces. Working with the civil society, BNUB promoted the respect of human rights and prepared for the establishment of transitional justice mechanisms.