Thank you for this opportunity to brief the Security Council on developments in Burundi and the efforts of the United Nations and partners to help resolve the crisis in the country.
As Members of the Security Council are aware, on 5 May, the Secretary-General appointed former President of Burkina Faso Michel Kafando as his new Special Envoy to lead and coordinate United Nations political efforts on Burundi, and to provide assistance to the mediation and facilitation led by the East African Community. Mr. Kafando visited New York from 30 May to 7 June for briefing and introductory meetings and consultations with Member States and the Secretariat. He will travel to the region shortly, to meet with Burundian stakeholders, the EAC Mediator and Facilitator, the African Union, and other relevant actors. This engagement in the region will give us a better insight into the status of the political process, the assessment of regional leaders of the situation and on the way forward.
Since the latest briefing to the Security Council on 9 March, the situation in Burundi has remained volatile.
On the political process, after some delays, an EAC Summit of Heads of State and Government was held on 20 May in Dar es Salaam at which President Museveni of Uganda was elected Chair of the Eastern African Community and approved the progress report and recommendations presented by EAC Facilitator former President Mkapa. In the report, Mr. Mkapa highligthed nine points to, as he put it, “clean the polluted political environment” for effective preparations of the 2020 elections, including confidence building measures, inclusivity and political space, return of refugees and exiled political leaders and preservation of the Constitution and the Arusha Agreement.
Mr. Mkapa expressed concern over the slow progress in the dialogue and called on all parties to engage in good faith and without preconditions. He also expressed concern over the Government’s demand to ‘repatriate’ the EAC-led dialogue to Burundi. Mr. Mkapa urged the leaders of the region to put their full weight behind his facilitation, including by providing appropriate funding for the process. The next round of consultations is scheduled to take place in Arusha in early July. The joint EAC-UN-AU working group continues to meet regularly in Arusha, with the participation of a team from the Office of the Special Envoy in Burundi, in support of the efforts of the Facilitator.
Mr President, Members of the Council,
The security situation remains fragile. Recent weeks have seen grenade attacks in the capital, and repression and intimidation by security forces and associated groups.
OHCHR, as well as human rights NGOs, continue to report targeted arrests, arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment of real or perceived opposition members and supporters, as well as extra-judicial killings and forced disappearances.
Reports of incitement to hatred and violence have increased since April 2017,with regular testimonies and video recordings of rallies by the Imbonerakure, the youth wing of the ruling CNDD-FDD. The dissemination of one such video on social media prompted CNDD-FDD to issue a statement on 5 April 2017, condemning the inflammatory lyrics and attributing the events to “influences outside the party”. On 18 April, the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a strong statement condemning the hateful rethoric and incitement to violence.
The Government of Burundi has not resumed cooperation with OHCHR, since it was suspended in mid-October 2016. OHCHR has been awaiting a response from the Government regarding amendments to a proposal for a new Memorandum of Understanding. The Commission of Inquiry on the human rights situation in Burundi established by the Human Rights Council presented its second oral briefing on 15 June. The three commissioners regretted the lack of access to the country and lack of cooperation by the government of Burundi. The Commission of Inquiry has collected more than 470 testimonies of human rights violations allegedly committed in Burundi since 2015. The Commission will present its final report to the Human Rights Council this coming September (2017).
Mr. President, Members of the Council,
In its final report issued on 12 May, the Commission Nationale de Dialogue Inter-Burundais (CNDI) stated that the majority in Burundi support a revision of the Constitution, the lifting of presidential term limits and changes to other provisions of the Arusha Agreement. Subsequently, President Nkurunziza appointed a constitutional review commission, which has yet to be established, with a six-month mandate to submit proposals to amend the Constitution. The CNDI report and the creation of the constitutional review commission were denounced by opposition parties, including CNARED. Civil society leaders in exile also condemned the move, which they consider a potential catalyst for unrest.
It is of great concern that these developments are taking place against the backdrop of widespread restrictions on civil liberties and political freedom. Implementing the proposed changes in the current climate will likely lead to an escalation of the crisis.
Mr. President, Members of the Council,
Since the Secretariat’s last briefing, the socioeconomic and humanitarian situations have also deteriorated. Three million people in Burundi are in need of humanitarian assistance. Nearly 2.6 million others experience acute food insecurity, with over 700,000 in need of emergency food assistance. Mass displacement continues, due to natural hazards, food insecurity and socio-political factors. About 209,000 people are internally displaced. The number of Burundian refugees in neighbouring countries exceeds 400,000. Humanitarian actors have scaled up their response but have yet to reach the capacity required to meet emerging life-saving needs. The Government has eased some restrictions on humanitarian access. The humanitarian community has appealed for 73.7 million US dollars to assist a third of the estimated three million people in need. The appeal is currently funded at only 35 percent, and the humanitarian community urgently needs additional financial support.
The IMF projects a growth rate of zero percent and an inflation rate of 12.4 percent in 2017. Severe fuel and electricity shortages further disrupt business and social activities and drive up prices. Blackouts lasting several days at a time have reportedly caused an uptick in criminal activities in some areas.
The Secretariat remains fully committed to assisting the people of Burundi and supporting the EAC-led dialogue process. Regional actors and international partners need to put their full weight behind the EAC-led dialogue and continue to press for the implementation of confidence-building measures, to help create conditions conducive for the holding of an inclusive and credible political dialogue.
I thank you for your attention.