The Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA) has been supporting regional efforts to help resolve Burundi’s political crisis since civil unrest erupted in April 2015 in Bujumbura in connection with the candidacy of President Pierre Nkurunziza. The violence that followed an attempted coup d’etat in May 2015 saw hundreds killed, thousands internally displaced, and some 420,000 flee to neighboring countries. Since then, Burundi has been trying to find a peaceful solution to the political crisis through the Inter-Burundian Dialogue, which is led by the region and supported by the United Nations, while the country is also preparing for the 2020 elections.
As mandated by Security Council resolutions 2248 (2015), 2279 (2016) and 2303 (2016), the Secretary-General appointed on 5 May 2017 former President of Burkina Faso, Michel Kafando as his Special Envoy to provide assistance to the efforts of the East African Community (EAC) for political dialogue among all Burundians as well as to lead and coordinate the UN political efforts to promote peace and sustainable development in Burundi. The Special Envoy’s team in Bujumbura has been working with the EAC and the African Union as part of a Joint Technical Working Group (JTWG) to facilitate and support the process, previously under the leadership of Special Adviser to the Secretary-General, Jamal Benomar. Special Envoy Kafando completed his assignment on 30 November 2019 and the Secretary-General has yet to appoint a replacement. The Office of the Special Envoy in Bujumbura is currently under the leadership and management of DPPA-Department of Peace Operations (DPO).
Progress since the end of civil war in the 1990s
As mandated in Security Council resolution 2137 (2014), the UN Electoral Observation Mission in Burundi (MENUB) deployed 72 election observers across the country to report on the 2015 elections. They concluded that while the vote was adequate in conduct, the overall environment was “not conducive” to a free and credible process. MENUB concluded its mandate on 18 November 2015.
In the decade before the 2015 elections the United Nations Office in Burundi (BNUB) supported the country in its efforts to build itself out of decades of civil war through reconciliation, equitable economic growth, and effective institutions.
In 2010 the UN provided electoral support to five elections, from the communal to the national level. One result was a record representation of women in public office -- over a third of elected officials and almost half of the government ministers.
In 2005 the UN Operations in Burundi (ONUB) organized the 2005 election in the context of the country emerging from conflict. The former Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, was a member of a strategic consultative committee which aimed to assess key aspects of international community assistance to the process. The Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) availed resources for the production of 1,000,000 identity cards. The UN Development Program (UNDP) was also a member of key electoral technical committees and supported fund mobilization. The elections came off successfully under the watchful presence of BINUB’s blue helmets.
Despite ongoing difficulties, Burundi has taken important strides forward since its civil war in the 1990s. The peace accord signed in Arusha, Tanzania in 2000, envisioned a new constitution, which was adopted on 18 March 2005 with an alternating presidency and ethnically balanced institutions designed to blunt the potential for conflict. A new constitution has been proposed by the government and will face referendum in May 2018.