7174th Meeting (AM)
Peacebuilding Commission Configuration Head Cites ‘Difficult and Tense’ Situation, Minister Stresses Need for Peace before 2015 Vote
Calling the transformation of the stand-alone United Nations political presence in Burundi into a country team a “historic moment”, the Organization’s senior official there said today that the transition was well under way.
Briefing the Security Council, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office in Burundi (BNUB), said the focus now was on strengthening the country team before the Office was withdrawn. As per the Council’s request, the Joint Transition Plan included details on the transfer of tasks to relevant stakeholders and possible gaps following the departure of BNUB.
He said Burundi had made significant progress since the signing of the Arusha Accords, and security generally prevailed throughout the national territory, although there had been a relatively small increase in grenade attacks and other incidents. Burundi should be proud of its strong female representation in political life, and an important reform process had been launched with the aim of cleaning up the private sector and promoting investment.
However, a number of concerns remained, including mistrust and a lack of inclusive dialogue between the Government and opposition parties, he cautioned, emphasizing that such a context was not conducive to ensuring respect for human rights. Confrontations in February had resulted in a tenuous political climate, including clashes between younger party members, he said, recommending the stepping up of initiatives to improve political governance, a dialogue of tolerance and efforts to end impunity. Distrust among the political classes remained a problem, and greater efforts must be devoted to reconciliation in order to build stronger national cohesion.
He stressed, however, that he remained confident that the political classes could overcome their difference and agree on mutually beneficial solutions. “There is reason to believe that, with the right amount of political will from all actors and the implementation of courageous and just measures, Burundi can stay the course and avoid a reversal of its commendable gains,” he added. BNUB was determined to complete the transition and committed to helping advance the cause of peace, as well as respect for human rights and democratic values.
Paul Seger ( Switzerland), Chair of the Burundi configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, said it was no secret that the current situation in Burundi was difficult and tense. Internally, the perceptions of the 2015 elections were provoking mounting tensions. Exacerbated by an absence of dialogue, political space was “visibly restricted”, leading to reciprocal mistrust between the ruling party and opposition groups. Additionally, international concerns had been raised, underlined by interventions and visits by representatives of bilateral and multilateral institutions and partners. “We have to further intensify our common efforts in favour of a frank, open but, at the same time, respectful and friendly dialogue between Burundi and its partners,” he stressed.
He said that because of recent developments, and at the Government’s suggestion, he would be visiting Burundi later than expected this month, and would only stay in Bujumbura for two days, contrary to his usual practice. He would also travel to Brussels, Paris, Kigali and Arusha for discussions on the best options for engagement after BNUB’s departure, an important issue, considering that partners would have to “fill the remaining gaps” once that Office was gone. While in Burundi, he would meet with the President, representatives of various political parties, civil society and the international community. As well, he would participate in the first meeting of the Joint Steering Committee that was accompanying the implementation of the Peacebuilding Fund’s new priority plan entailing $11.65 million for programmes on national cohesion, youth, human rights and land.
He went on to say that he would also propose a round-table meeting to be held as a follow-up to the 2012 Geneva Conference on Burundi. That meeting had been based on the principle of mutual engagements and responsibilities, with international partners having committed to supporting Burundi financially, through a poverty reduction strategy paper, and the Government having committed to important political and socioeconomic reforms.
However, the dynamic of that Conference had “somewhat stalled”, he said. Convening a roundtable at this time could counter the risk of economic and political relapse, rekindle the “spirit of Geneva” and contribute to a review of progress on implementing the poverty reduction strategy paper. Such a meeting should happen “sooner rather than later”, he urged. Given its painful recent history, Burundi had made remarkable progress towards stability in a very short period of time, but the momentum must be maintained and relapse must be prevented, he stressed. International engagement with Burundi was also need, “maybe more than ever now”.
Edouard Nduwimana, Minister for Interior of Burundi, said it was critically important to create an environment conducive to peace for the 2015 elections. With that in mind, the Government had developed the March 2013 Road Map now being implemented, which entailed wide-ranging consultations open to all parties. The technical work carried out through the Truth and Reconciliation Committee had also resulted in significant progress. The third phase of the Peacebuilding Commission’s efforts in Burundi was under way, but would require significant funds, he said, calling upon donors to make good on their pledges.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 10:35 a.m.
For information media • not an official record