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  • Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, briefs the Security Council on the situation in Burundi.
Security Council Considers Situation in Burundi. UN Photo/Cia Pak

Security Council Briefing on the Situation in Burundi, Under-Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman

Mr. President, Members of the Council,

Thank you for the opportunity to brief the Security Council on the situation in Burundi.

One year ago, on 5 November 2014, the Security Council held its last discussion on the United Nations Office in Burundi (BNUB) before it closed at the end of the year at the request of the Burundian Government.

In the briefing given to the Council, the then Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Burundi, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, underlined our hope that the groundwork laid by Burundian authorities to preserve stability and consolidate democracy would not be reversed during the 2015 electoral cycle.

Today, one year later, Burundi finds itself in a deep political crisis and rapid escalation of violence that has serious implications for stability and ethnic harmony in Burundi as well as peace and security in the region.  The political, economic, social, and security gains that came out of the landmark Arusha Accords are already at risk.

The May 22 killing of Zedi Feruzi, a key opposition figure,  marked the beginning of a troubling pattern of politically-motivated assassinations and attacks.    Neither the conclusion of Burundi’s legislative and presidential electoral cycle this summer nor the inclusion of some key opposition figures in the governing coalition calmed the situation, which has instead grown more troubling. As the High Commissioner will further elaborate, the number of reported human rights violations and casualties are rising by the day and spreading beyond Bujumbura.

In the capital, the situation is currently very tense. Several neighborhoods, especially those perceived to have opposed President Nkurunziza’s third term, experience nightly exchanges of gunshots and grenade explosions   Traumatized residents frequently discover mutilated bodies, victims of executions.

Just this morning, at least two people were killed in a grenade attack in the Musaga neighborhood in Bujumbura.  On 7 November, at least nine people, including a United Nations staff member, were killed when unknown gunmen opened fire inside a bar in the Kanyosha neighborhood in Bujumbura. The bar was alleged to have been a previous meeting venue of anti-third mandate demonstrators.Saturday’s incident is the second time within a month that a staff member of the United Nations family in Burundi has been killed.  The High Commissioner will provide other examples of human rights violations and killings.

In this very tense environment, inflammatory and chilling public statements from authorities have provoked concern and alarm in Burundi, the region, and beyond.   

In a 29 October speech, the President of the Senate, Révérien Ndikuriyo, told local administrators to be ready and set their emotions aside if a signal is given to the police to [quote] “go to work,” which has been widely interpreted as implying a pre-planned operation. He also said that “plots of land are about to be available.”

On 2 November, President Nkurunziza gave armed civilians five days to surrender their arms or face being “dealt with as enemies of the nation”.  The President said that the police have the right to use “all available means” to find illegally possessed arms.  While police forces do  have the right and responsibility to maintain law and order, many incidents described s crackdown activities appear to cross the line into extrajudiciary attacks, striking fear among the  residents of some neighborhoods.

Consequently, we have received reports that the President’s ultimatum has prompted a large number of people living in affected neighborhoods to flee their homes, ahead of the deadline this past weekend.

Many recent statements have also been interpreted as as having an ethnic dimension contrary to the spirit of the Arusha Accords that ended Burundi’s civil war.  The Secretary-General has strongly condemned such dangerous incitement. Mr. President, Members of the Council,

The crisis in Burundi is political at its core and cannot be resolved by a security clampdown. It is not credible to claim that a small group of criminals or traitors are behind the current violence. The problem is much deeper and thus more worrying. 

To address the deteriorating situation situation, Burundian leaders will need to address the political deadlock that preceded and transcended the summer elections.

In this regard, the Government of Burundi has established a commission for inter-Burundian dialogue, said to be  open to all except those implicated in the failed coup d’état on 14 May.  

While the UN in general supports national dialogue efforts,  this commission will not be able to make much progress  in the tense security context where members of political parties and civil society are frequently found dead on the streets.  With many media outlets closed down since spring and opposition leaders abroad afraid to return home, the government has not established the conditions for credible and inclusive political dialogue.  We encourage the Burundian authorities to do so as quickly as possible.     

On 17 October, the African Union Peace and Security Council agreed on a multi-pronged approach to address the situation in Burundi.

This included the expansion of its human rights observers and military experts and the initiation of contingency planning for the possible deployment of an African-led Mission in the country.

The African Union Peace and Security Council also gave its strong support to the resumption of a political dialogue in Kampala or Addis, with the facilitation of Uganda.

The United Nations is in close consultation with the African Union Commission on how to provide technical and logistical assistance and expertise to advance the implementation of the decision of the African Union Peace and Security Council.

We have also offered to provide support and assistance to the Ugandan-led Facilitation under the rubric of the East African Community.

In the coming days, the Secretary-General will announce the appointment of a Special Adviser who will lead and coordinate UN efforts in support of Burundi. The Special Adviser will work closely with the AU, EAC and other partners to prevent further escalation of the conflict and build peace in Burundi.


Mr. President, Members of the Council,

The sharp deterioration of the political and security situation is happening at a time when MENUB’s mandate is ending. There is clearly a need for continuing political engagement and presence on the ground to support Burundi during these difficult times. But this requires a mandate from the Security Council and the cooperation of the Government of Burundi.

Burundi finds itself at a critical juncture.  A political solution must be found to resolve the crisis before it spirals out of control and affects peace and security regionally.    

We hope that that all international partners, particularly those in the region, speak with one voice in urging and supporting Burundi to find a political settlement to the crisis.

The Secretary-General calls  on all Burundian parties, inside the country and abroad. to cease immediately the propagation of hate speech, renounce violence, and engage in good faith with the ongoing facilitation of the East African Community.

The United Nations is prepared to do what we can do support a credible and inclusive dialogue that can address the deep political challenges the country currently faces.

We must all work to ensure that it takes place and succeeds.

I thank you for your attention.