Bujumbura, Burundi - This Thursday, the weekly press conference organised by the United Nations Operation in Burundi (ONUB) hosted four members of the diplomatic corps, namely, Ambassador Mamadou Bah, Special Representative of the African Union in Burundi, Mr. Alain Girma, Ambassador of France, Mr. Jeremy Macadie, Ambassador of Great Britain, and Mr. Georges-Marc André, Representative of the European Commission. The diplomats took turns to comment on the conduct of the last legislative elections and to analyze the posttransition period that will start on 26 August 2005 with the swearing-in of the next President of Burundi.
The four diplomats unanimously acknowledged that the legislative elections of 7 July 2005 were successful. In the opinion of the Special Representative of the African Union, "the elections were well organised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) and the Electoral Unit of the United Nations. They were also widely publicized in the media by journalists."
The Ambassador of Great Britain said he was "very impressed" with the efficiency of the polling stations and the number of women who turned out for the elections. Mr. Macadie added that "CENI did a great job and deserves to be congratulated. The Electoral Commission still has more work on the table. Other elections are forthcoming, but I think that Burundians have shown that there is a profound and sincere desire to achieve peace and stability. I think that we have made a good start on this long journey which will continue for years." And, in a more reassuring tone, he said that "Burundians should not think that they are alone. We are friends, we are here to help them and we will do the journey together."
On taking his turn, the Ambassador of France said that his country has been supporting the electoral process in Burundi from the outset. "I am quite impressed with the conduct of these legislative elections. I am impressed with the conditions of security that prevailed, the very satisfactory conditions under which the elections were organised, and the satisfactory conditions of fairness and transparency that obtained," Mr. Girma added. On the same breadth, the Ambassador said emphatically that "I am positively impressed. All observers are unanimous in this respect. Polling took place under satisfactory conditions." Taking the cue from his colleague who spoke about the postelection period in Burundi, Mr. Girma said that "There is no doubt that this is a major step forward. I think that Burundians should be congratulated on this positive achievement. But this is just one phase, and there is still a long way to go."
After the French ambassador, the Representative of the European Commission declared that "The Commission is obviously pleased with the successful elections in Burundi. The European Commission has been supporting Burundi since 1962." Subsequently, Mr. André recalled some facts relating to his organisation's involvement in the Burundi peace process. "The European Commission was present at the outset of the Arusha negotiations in support of the peace process and to give it financial backing. In this regard, the Commission has been lending assistance throughout the transitional period and has disbursed substantial amounts for reconstruction." While alluding to the violence that marred election campaigns without impacting on the polls, the Representative of the European Commission ended on an optimistic note: "I hope that the upcoming polls will be similar to today's. By this I mean that violence during election campaigns will be a thing of the past."
Concerning the challenges awaiting Burundians after the elections, in particular the social and economic development of the country, the Representative of the European Commission said that "I can only reassure Burundians that the European Commission will continue providing assistance to Burundi as it has always done. It will also, as in the past, undertake advocacy for Burundi so that other donors can return or come to Burundi to help the country meet its huge needs for the future."
The diplomats warned against misusing donor aid provided to the country. "We will like to see our assistance used most judiciously," the Ambassador of Great Britain said. In this connection, and on the basis of the Cotonou Agreement signed between ACP countries and the European Commission, the Representative of the European Commission said in a straightforward manner that "According to the Cotonou Agreement, when it is noticed that funds are mismanaged, whereas the Commission's assistance is always in the form of grants, the beneficiary country must repay."
Ambassador Bah took the opportunity of his peers' statements to prick the consciences of Burundians who will soon enter another phase of their lives. "I often hear you ask 'what should Burundi legitimately expect?' I would like you to often ponder about what people should legitimately expect from Burundi." And, as if offering a solution himself, the Special Representative of the African Union concluded as follows: "People legitimately expect from Burundi hard work, much effort and considerable sincerity and transparency in management. These are the qualities that most countries benefiting from aid lack. This situation must change."
Isabelle ABRIC, Chef, Information Publique/
Chief, Public Information
Penangnini TOURE, Porte-parole/ Spokesperson
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