The Situation in Burundi: Report of the Secretary-General (S/2018/1028)
The present report is submitted pursuant to resolution 2303 (2016), in which the Security Council requested me to report to it on the situation in Burundi every three months, including on any public incidents of incitement to hatred and violence. Since my previous report of 25 January 2018 (S/2018/89), my Special Envoy for Burundi has conducted several visits to Burundi and the region, held consultations with th e African Union Commission for the Great Lakes Region, and provided briefings to the Security Council on 10 and 24 May and 9 August 2018. My Special Envoy also met with President of Uganda, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, and former President of Tanzania, Benjamin Mkapa, the mediator and the facilitator, respectively, of the East African Community-led dialogue process.
The present report covers political developments in Burundi since August 2018, including regional initiatives and my Special Envoy’s efforts to help to revive the inter-Burundian dialogue process, and contains information on activities conducted by the entities of the United Nations system in Burundi.
II. Major developments
A. Political developments
The signing by the ruling party and various political parties allied to it of a road map for the general elections to be held in 2020 and the appointment of new members of the national independent electoral commission, la Commission électorale nationale indépendente, are two notable political developments that have taken place in Burundi during the period under review, both of which have been contested by the opposition coalition. In addition, the convening of the fifth session of the inter-Burundian dialogue in October was the main highlight of the reporting period.
The facilitator of the East African Community-led inter-Burundian dialogue held consultations from 20 to 22 October with civil society organizations, including women, young people and members of the media and religious groups. From 25 to 29 October, the facilitator held the fifth session of the dialogue process. The Government, the ruling party, its political allies and civil society organizations affiliated with it did not participate in either the dialogue or the consultations.
Developments within Burundi
On 7 June, the new constitution was promulgated by President of Burundi Pierre Nkurunziza, who also declared at the time that he would not stand for re -election in 2020. Subsequently, on 3 August, members of the Ministry of the Interior, Civic Education and Local Development invited registered political parties to attend a meeting in Kayanza province to discuss issues relating to the 2020 elections and to seek agreement on themes such as peace consolidation, democracy, political tolerance, inclusiveness and the promotion of human rights. Twenty-two of Burundi’s 32 registered political parties attended the meeting, which also featured a discussion on the electoral code and legislation pertaining to political parties. At its conclusion, 20 of the 22 participants adopted a road map for the 2020 elections, including leaders of the Union pour le progrès national (UPRONA) and other parties considered to be affiliated with the ruling Conseil national pour la défense de la démocratie -Forces pour la défense de la démocratie (CNDD-FDD). The outcome document, known as the 2018 Kayanza road map, has not been made public, however, participants at the meeting shared that, in the road map, those who adopted it: (a) commended government efforts to re-establish peace in Burundi; (b) urged investment in the country; (c) called for free elections, freedom of political space and freedom of expression; (d) called for political pluralism; (e) recognised that no political actor, except those who were allegedly involved in the coup attempt of May 2015, was subject to judicial proceedings; (f) encouraged the return of political actors and of refugees; and (g) guaranteed the independence of the national independent electoral commission. Signatories of the document noted that it would ensure the return of exiled politicians who were not under prosecution by the Burundian judiciary and allow for the registration of the returnees whose names were missing from the electoral registers compiled prior to the constitutional referendum of May 2018. On 25 September, during a radio talk show to discuss the Kayanza road map, the Assistant Minister of the Interior stated that, with the new constitution in place, the inter-Burundian dialogue was obsolete and that any further dialogue should be held in Bujumbura.
Representatives of both the Sahwanya-Front pour la démocratie du Burundi (Sahwanya-FRODEBU) party and the Rassemblement national pour le changement (RANAC) party attended the Kayanza meeting but declined to sign the document. A Sahwanya-FRODEBU spokesperson stated that the meeting had no consensus and that the road map had been prepared in advance by unknown actors. Separately, a RANAC representative declared that the party would challenge CNDD-FDD in the 2020 elections. The opposition coalition Amizero y’Abarundi, led by Agathon Rwasa, was invited to the Kayanza session but did not attend. Its members criticised the process as lacking inclusivity, noting that many political actors had been excluded.
The opposition coalition in diaspora, or the external opposition, Conseil national pour le respect de l’Accord d’Arusha pour la paix et la réconciliation au Burundi et la restauration de l’état de droit (CNARED), held an extraordinary session on 4 and 5 August 2018, in response to the promulgation of the new constitution, which it indicated had effectively destroyed the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement. In a further statement, on 28 August 2018, CNARED called for the East African Community-led dialogue to urgently organise a “real round of negotiations, as inclusive as possible, in order to put an end to the Burundian political crisis ”. On 14 September, the CNARED Chairperson addressed a letter to the facilitator in which he listed issues and requirements that could facilitate the success of the upcoming dialogue session, including: (a) compliance with the principle of inclusivity through the participation of all parties and members of CNARED, including those who have arrest warrants filed against them; (b) high-level representation of the Government of Burundi; (c) presence of the mediator in the talks; (d) improved conditions for refugees in Tanzania; and (e) the continued engagement of the African Union and the United Nations as partners with the East African Community in its facilitation.
On 20 August, while celebrating the anniversary of his re-election in 2015, Mr. Nkurunziza expressed his appreciation to those Burundians who had voted for him in 2015 and welcomed “the peaceful, secure and calm climate across the country”, noting the “total freedom” of the population. He reiterated his commitment to reconciling Burundians and to promoting the values of love, complementarity, discipline and mutual respect. The President also warned against any attempt to overthrow elected institutions, threatening those who should dare of “falling into their own trap”.
On 18 September, the President presided over the swearing-in ceremony of the new members of the national independent electoral commission, whose selection had been confirmed by Parliament on 29 August. The newly elected members swore allegiance to the national unity charter, the Constitution and the law and pledged to organise independent, impartial, free and fair elections with a “strong sense of patriotism”. Members of the Amizero y’Abarundi coalition denounced the new configuration as lacking inclusivity and objected to the fact that they had not been consulted.
According to the new constitution, independent members of coalitions are no t permitted to stand for election. As a result, prominent opposition figure Mr. Rwasa announced the creation of his political party, Le Front national pour la liberté (FNL) Amizero y’Abarundi, on 12 September 2018. The development was understood to reflect his intention to run in the 2020 presidential race. In announcing the new party, he appealed to other members of the Amizero y’Abarundi coalition, in particular those from the non-recognized wing of UPRONA, to join it. Consequently, the leader of the registered Forces nationales de libération (FNL) party, Jacques Bigirimana, filed a complaint with the Ministry of the Interior against Mr. Rwasa for plagiarizing the acronym FNL.
On 18 October, the president of the Sahwanya-Frodebu opposition political party announced the party’s withdrawal from the CNARED opposition platform. The decision was reportedly taken in order to attract to the party more supporters who wished to see the democratic ideals of late President Melchior Ndadaye realized. Sahwanya-Frodebu also called upon all political actors involved in the inter-Burundian dialogue to work together to resolve the crisis in Burundi.
At the nineteenth ordinary summit of the East African Community, held in in Kampala on 23 February 2018, the facilitator of the inter-Burundian dialogue was asked to “expeditiously conclude” the dialogue process; he subsequently made plans to hold a fifth session of the dialogue in April 2018. The effort was hampered, however, by the Government’s announcement that it would not participate in any dialogue-related activity until after the constitutional referendum. After the promulgation of the Constitution, the facilitator dispatched his team to consult with the Government, political parties, the external opposition coalition, civil society organizations, young people, women, religious groups and the media on the holding of the fifth session and its agenda.
A delegation of the joint technical working group, comprising the East African Community facilitation team and representatives of the African Union and the United Nations, met in Bujumbura from 16 to 18 August to begin preparations for the fifth session of the dialogue. During the visit to Bujumbura, the working group met with members of CNDD-FDD and its political allies, who stressed that the country was stable and that several items on the facilitator’s agenda had been resolved, notably the amendment of the Constitution and the issue of presidential term limits. They nevertheless agreed to participate in the fifth session, on the condition that it would be the last. CNDD-FDD noted that the 2018 Kayanza road map should be the basis for the dialogue and called for the process to be moved to Burundi.
While in Burundi, the joint technical working group also met with representatives of the Amizero y’Abarundi opposition coalition and other opposition political parties. It was their view that there were several unresolved items on the proposed agenda to be discussed during the dialogue, including the reconfiguration of the national independent electoral commission and the emergence of a consensual road map with a hybrid mechanism that could closely monitor its implementation.
They also concurred that the fifth session should be the final one.
From 6 to 8 September 2018, the joint technical working group visited Brussels for consultations with the external opposition coalition. CNARED members expressed a willingness to participate in the fifth session. They reiterated, however, that they be invited as a bloc rather than as individuals, including those who have arrest warrants filed against them. They also expressed their apprehension with regard to the Government’s position that the fifth session should be the last.
Following the consultations in Bujumbura and Brussels, the joint technical working group concluded that there was sufficient convergence of perspectives to convene a meaningful session and began preparations to hold a meeting in Arusha. The facilitation team also recommended to the facilitator that he convene a meeting of representatives of civil society organizations, including women’s, youth and religious groups and the media, ahead of the plenary session.
On the basis of the findings of the consultations, the facilitator scheduled the fifth session of the dialogue to take place from 19 to 24 October. However, the Government of Burundi requested that it be postponed until after 24 October to allow for the commemoration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the assassination of the former President, Mr. Ndadaye, organized for 21 October. The facilitator therefore rescheduled the session to take place from 24 to 29 October.
On 20 October, the facilitation opened consultations with representatives of women’s, youth and religious groups and the media. The meeting was attended by 13 representatives from Bujumbura and outside Burundi. Civil society organizations allied to the Government boycotted the meeting, however, despite having received airplane tickets issued by the United Nations, noting that the facilitator had failed to respond positively to the Government’s preconditions. Upon completion of the consultations, on 22 October, participants submitted information on the outcome of their discussions, with a list of recommendations and a road map for the 2020 elections.
On 19 October, the Government again requested that the dialogue be postponed, this time until November, arguing that the month of October was a mourning period. In a communiqué dated 23 October, the Government indicated that it would not participate in the fifth session, citing the same reason. Government officials also objected to the fact that certain preconditions had not been met, namely, that the fifth session should focus solely on the 2018 Kayanza road map and that the list of participants be shared ahead of the session. Following consultations with the mediator and subregional leaders, the facilitator postponed the session by one day in order to provide an additional opportunity for the Government, the ruling party and its allies to attend.
On 25 October, the facilitator opened the fifth session of the inter-Burundian dialogue, in the absence of the Government, the ruling party and its allied parties. The session was attended by 41 representatives of political parties and political actors from within and outside Burundi, including two former Heads of State and six key women political and civil society actors. In his opening statement, the facilitator encouraged participants to provide a consensus document, taking into account the 2018 Kayanza road map that was developed by the Government, CNDD-FDD and allied parties, the 2018 Entebbe road map drafted by the internal and external opposition coalition during a joint meeting held from 21 to 23 September, and the recommendations made by the representatives of civil society, women’s and youth organizations and the media and religious groups as a result of their meeting in Arusha.
The fifth session was concluded by the facilitator on 29 October. In his closing remarks, he emphasized that it was time to reassess his role and the facilitation process as a whole. He thanked the facilitation team and the joint technical working group for their excellent and serious work and for the support they had provided to him throughout his tenure. He announced that he would develop a joint road map, comprising the participants’ consensus road map and other previously drafted road maps. The facilitator’s road map would include the principles and minimum standards that he considered to be matters of consensus, in an effort to ensure the holding of credible elections in 2020. He plans to present the document, as well as his final report on the dialogue process, to the mediator and other Heads of State of the East African Community, at the upcoming ordinary summit to be held on 30 November 2018, so that they may consider the way forward.