President Mandela's Security Council Speech on Burundi

Peace negotiator challenges Burundi's leaders
In an address to the Security Council January 19, former South African President Nelson Mandela said that "it is time for Burundians to get down to business" and reach a lasting political settlement to stop the bloodshed and misery in their country.

Mandela, who is the newly appointed facilitator of the Arusha peace process for Burundi, said that in the past year violence has become an "all too common occurrence" in Burundian life, and the people have "become hostage to violence from all sides."

The Security Council held an open formal meeting on the situation in Burundi, especially to hear from Mandela on the state of the peace process, conditions in the country, and how the international community might help in ending the crisis in that country.

As facilitator, Mandela said, "we shall continue to emphasize to the parties already at the negotiating table that there is no alternative to meaningful engagement within the political mainstream of the process."

While he said he is under no illusion about the political problems or the fragility of the security situation, Mandela said he is confident "that there is sufficient capacity amongst the leaders of Burundi to reach compromises and agreements that can at last led to peace and stability in that country."

Following is the text of Mandela's remarks:

(begin text)


Mister President
Honourable Members of the Council

We are both honoured and saddened by this occasion.

Honoured that the leaders of the Great Lakes region found it fit to call upon us to step into the shoes of that great son of Africa and the world, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, to continue the facilitation of the Burundi Peace Process. And that we may now in that capacity address the Security Council of our world body.

Saddened that the world, and in this case our beloved continent of Africa, continues to be haunted by such self-inflicted human tragedy as in Burundi, and that there is the need for the facilitation and process upon which we shall report to the esteemed Security Council this morning.

We cannot commence to speak of this process without first paying homage to Mwalimu Nyerere.

We are inspired by the energy, patience and wisdom he invested in the peace process over several years. We are humbled by the stature of the man whom we are asked to succeed, and heavily under the impression of the obligation that places upon us.

We need to thank the United Nations for convening this special session of the Security Council to apply its mind to, and remain seized of, the matter concerning Burundi.

Where even one single human being, one group of people, one nation, one part of the world labours under preventable suffering, it is the concern of all of us as a world drawn closer together than ever in our history.

The misery of the Burundian people affects us all and diminishes the humanity of all of us. The international community turns its attention and its energy to this matter not as a favour to that country or continent.

The failure of those responsible to provide conditions of security and social development to the people of Burundi does not represent some errant occurrence on the periphery. It hits at the heart of our common human obligation to make of this century one where all human beings will at last share in the security and prosperity that our planet is capable of providing.

Mister President, in spite of the grave difficulties we still face in Burundi -- issues to which I shall return in the course of this report -- it is gratifying to be able to state that a lot of progress had already been made since the start of the negotiations.

In the past eighteen months the Arusha process has seen the establishment of four Committees each targeting particular aspects of the negotiations.

These Committees have achieved significant progress and two of them, the one dealing with the nature of the conflict and the issue of genocide and the other dealing with reconstruction and development, have nearly completed their work.

The major outstanding issues for these two Committees are, respectively, the appropriate mechanism of dealing with the past; and agreeing on the question of the recovery of property by returning refugees. Also the question of amnesty remains as particularly problematic and complex given the history of Burundi; by the same token, it is one of the crucial matters to be tackled if permanent peace is to be established.

The other two Committees are those dealing with, on the one hand, democracy and good governance and, on the other, peace and security for all.

These Committees too have made significant progress, but continue to confront some major issues on which the Burundians must agree.

Most of the parties are agreed on the principle of universal franchise but differences remain on whether the parliament should be balanced in ethnic, gender or other terms.

The real challenge facing Burundians, and hence the facilitation, is that of creating a form of democracy that provides for accountable and responsive government and ensures security for those who for reasons of demography feel vulnerable within such a system.

With regards to peace and security for all, the parties have agreed on principles for the organisation of the defence and security forces, and on the missions of the army, the police force and the intelligence services.

So far, however, they have failed to agree on a programme of reform of the present security forces; or on the issue of the integration of armed groups into the security forces.

These are amongst the most sensitive issues in the negotiations and will have to be faced squarely if the process is to lead to a durable peace for Burundi.

We paid a first visit to Arusha on Sunday 16 January to acquaint ourselves with the facilitation team, the international agencies and representatives involved in the process and, most importantly, the heads of delegations from the Burundian political parties and role-players.

We came away from that meeting impressed by the potential and quality of leadership present in Burundi. We met and interacted with people of outstanding intelligence and education.

There are political processes and sets of dynamics under way which, if harnessed and directed in constructive routes, could form the basis for a lasting political settlement in that hitherto troubled country.

But it is time for Burundians to get down to business! No one can reach an agreement on their behalf. The responsibility rests squarely with their leaders now to find the necessary arrangements by which Burundians can live together.

As one becomes acquainted with the history of the negotiations and the nature of the conflict in Burundi, it is evident that Burundians have much more in common with each other than that which divides them.

What do divide them are their unfortunate history and the perceptions that are the legacy of that history. As it is perceptions of
difference that divide, it is also perceptions properly adjusted that can serve as the foundation for uniting Burundi as a nation.

To that task the leadership of Burundi now stands called.

One of the most important issues impacting upon the Burundian situation and the negotiation process, is that of violence. When the negotiations started in June 1998 it was hoped that they would take place in an atmosphere free from violence and bloodshed. Unfortunately this had not been the case.

Indeed, over the past year, and in the last few months in particular, there has been an intensification of violence, including attacks on the civilian population.

Killings, whether ethnically targeted or indiscriminate ambushes on civilians, burning of houses, forcible removal of people from their homes have become all too common occurrences in Burundian life.

The population of Burundi has become hostage to violence from all sides in the conflict. As a result new waves of refugees are fleeing the country and people are increasingly becoming internally displaced in their own country.

Burundians face the task of demilitarising their society in the medium term and embarking on the formidable task of development and reconstruction. An end to the senseless violence, through which various forces in Burundi seek to assert themselves, is a first step in that longer-term process.

In this regard we shall seek to send a clear message to the Burundi Government that in spite of the manner in which they came to power, they and through them the Burundi Army, have a particular responsibility to defend and protect the civilian population and not just a given part of it.

We regard it similarly as of crucial importance to issue a clear call to those armed groups who are not in the process. We shall make renewed efforts to engage those groups with the purpose of making them aware of the nature of the exchanges in the process and to gather some indication of their attitudes towards the shape of a possible consensus.

We have no doubt that the Burundian Peace Talks represent the only way in which Burundi can achieve peace and embark on the task of reconstruction and development. For this process to be successful it must be inclusive, and to the extent that players are not represented at Arusha, we shall regard it as our task to make the process as inclusive as possible.

We shall continue to emphasise to the parties already at the negotiating table that there is no alternative to meaningful
engagement within the political mainstream of the process.

To those outside of the process, the message will be sent to start formulating their political aspirations in coherent terms and
demonstrate the capability to come to the negotiating table in good faith and in full respect of the guiding principles of the process.

There is also the need for a stronger link between the peace process and the reality of political life in Burundi. Common sense tells that if an agreement signed in Arusha were not acceptable to public opinion in Burundi, it could not be successfully implemented.

The responsibility for ensuring that link lies solely with the leadership of the parties conducting the negotiations. This means that the political leaders need to do groundwork at grassroots level in order to persuade their constituencies that the price of agreement, and lasting peace, will be concession and compromise on certain major issues.

Towards this end, amongst others, we have already indicated to the Burundian political leaders that we are willing to accept their invitation to visit Burundi as part of our facilitation task.

The Burundian peace process needs the support of the international community to sustain the actual negotiations and the ongoing efforts to achieve peace. We must at the same time express our deep appreciation for the support it has already received up till now. A further investment in the process can only help to finally achieve those objectives to which the international community has already so generously given.

The international community can also help to alleviate the suffering of the Burundian people through the provision of humanitarian aid, insofar as security conditions allow. In that regard, we appeal to all the belligerents to respect the international humanitarian efforts in Burundi and in particular to safeguard the security of those involved in humanitarian assistance.

We commend the efforts of the United Nations agencies to resume fully their activities in the field. We would, however, like to restate that the primary responsibility for ending the humanitarian crisis in Burundi lies with the leaders of the Burundi people. It is they who, by an effort of politics, must create the conditions enabling their people to return to their homes and resume normal economic life.

We intend following up our recent first visit to Arusha with a more extended one in February, by which time much more work would have been done on the Committee level and in other consultative processes.

We particularly wish to invite to that meeting some other heads of state from different parts of the world. Apart from the financial and humanitarian assistance, the international community also has a part to play politically.

The effectiveness of the messages we have delivered to the various protagonists in Burundi can only be reinforced by the participation of other heads of states and countries. The problems of Burundi are the concern of all of us, as are the problems in any other part of the world.

Mr. President, we are under no illusions about the political problems we face in Burundi or about the utmost fragility of the security situation in that country. Neither can we underestimate the impact of regional developments in the Great Lakes region on developments in Burundi.

We conclude, however, by restating our confidence that there is sufficient capacity amongst the leaders of Burundi to reach
compromises and agreements that can at last lead to peace and stability in that country.

If Burundians can reach an agreement on a way to live together they will be setting an example to neighbouring countries, to Africa and to the world.

It is not possible to establish regional peace unless component parts of a region establish domestic foundations for a stable democratic order. Peace in Burundi will give hope for the Democratic Republic of Congo and other countries in the region. And it will prove an effective example of African intervention in an African problem.

We thank our world body and the international community for their attention to this matter.

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(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State)