The following Security Council press statement was issued today by Council President Karen Pierce (United Kingdom):
While the security situation in the country is generally calm, the members of Security Council reiterated their concern over the political situation in Burundi, the slow progress of the inter‑Burundi dialogue led by the East African Community, and the lack of engagement by the Government of Burundi in that regard. They welcomed the announcement by President Nkurunziza that he will not seek another term in 2020, which is seen as a first step towards reducing political tensions, and noted additional progress will be necessary for credible elections.
The members of Security Council welcomed and expressed their support for the renewed commitment by the African Union and the East African Community to a peaceful resolution of the political situation in Burundi through an inclusive dialogue on the basis of the Arusha Agreement of 28 August 2000 and the Constitution of Burundi, and reiterated their support for the facilitation led by former President B. Mkapa under the mediation of President Museveni.
The members of Security Council reiterated their deep concern over the slow progress of this dialogue and called for all the Burundian stakeholders to participate actively and unconditionally in this process. They stressed that it is crucial that all parties, most especially the Government of Burundi, commit to the East African Community‑led process and reach an agreement well ahead of the 2020 elections. The members of Security Council further stressed that the dialogue is the only viable process for a sustainable political settlement in Burundi. The Security Council calls on all relevant parties, including national, regional and international actors to actively support and engage constructively to ensure a successful new round of negotiations of the inter‑Burundi dialogue.
The members of Security Council underlined the utmost importance of respecting the letter and the spirit of the Arusha Agreement, which has helped to sustain a decade of peace in Burundi, and expressed concern that the situation prevailing in Burundi has undermined the significant gains achieved through the Arusha Agreement, with serious consequences for Burundi and the region. They urged the guarantors of the Agreement to meet their obligations in this regard, to ensure that the entirety of the Agreement is adhered to. The members of Security Council called upon the United Nations, African Union, East African Community, International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and the guarantors of the Arusha Agreement to coordinate their efforts of assisting Burundian stakeholders to settle outstanding issues in the implementation of the Arusha Agreement.
The members of Security Council reaffirmed their full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Burundi in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations. They noted their expectation that elections scheduled for 2020 in Burundi will be free, fair, transparent, peaceful and fully inclusive, with the participation of all political parties, and will ensure the full and equal participation of women throughout the process. They also underlined that considerable improvements to the political and human rights situation, in particular regarding fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of expression including for freedom of the press and of civil society actors, and progress on reconciliation are necessary to enable credible elections.
The Security Council calls on States in the region to contribute to finding a political solution for the situation in Burundi, refrain from any interference and to respect their obligations under international law, and recalls in this regard commitments of the States in the region under the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Region and the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.
The members of the Security Council reiterated their deep concern regarding the continued worsening of the humanitarian situation, marked by nearly 180,000 internally displaced persons, 3.6 million people in need and nearly 400,000 Burundians seeking refuge in neighboring countries. They commended the host countries for their efforts, noted the return of more than 40,000 refugees to Burundi and called upon Governments in the region to ensure that those returns are voluntary, based on informed decisions and in safety and dignity. The Security Council calls on the international community to support the integration of the new returnees and the local host communities.
The Security Council acknowledges the contribution of Burundian peacekeepers serving in United Nations and African Union‑led peacekeeping operations and reiterates the importance of upholding the standards of the United Nations.
The Security Council notes the steps taken by the Government to withdraw the bans of some civil society organizations, cancel some arrest warrants and release a number of detainees following the presidential pardon on 31 December 2017. The Security Council urges the Government of Burundi to take further steps to respect, protect and guarantee human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, in line with the country’s Constitution and its international obligations.
The members of the Security Council strongly condemned all violations and abuses of human rights in Burundi, whoever perpetrates them. They reaffirmed the primary responsibility of the Government of Burundi for ensuring security in its territory and protecting its population, with respect for the rule of law, human rights and international humanitarian law, as applicable. They urged the Government of Burundi to take further steps to protect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, to respect the rule of law and ensure accountability for all crimes, in line with the country’s Constitution and its international obligations, as applicable.
The members of the Security Council urged Burundi to reengage with international partners, especially the United Nations, in a constructive manner and based on mutual trust. They encouraged the Government of Burundi and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to enhance their cooperation, through dialogue and mutual respect, including swiftly finalizing the agreement with OHCHR. They called on the Secretary‑General and the Government of Burundi to expeditiously finalize and implement the status of the Mission Agreement for the Office of the Special Envoy. They also expressed their support for the African Union call for the rapid signing of the memorandum of understanding relating to the activities of the human rights observers and the military experts of the African Union, which will allow the African Union human rights observers and military experts to fully operate in the country in fulfilment of their mandated responsibilities.
The Security Council notes that a number of bilateral and multilateral partners have suspended their financial and technical assistance to the Government of Burundi, in view of the situation in Burundi, and encourages bilateral and multilateral partners and the Government of Burundi to continue their dialogue with a view to the Government of Burundi creating conducive conditions for resumption of the assistance.