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Peacebuilding in Burundi ‘Has Clearly Entered a New Phase’, Security Council Told; International Efforts Can Focus on Socio-Economic Rebuilding, 2010 Elections

Security Council

6138th Meeting (AM)



Hears from Peacebuilding Commission’s Burundi Configuration Chair,

Head of UN Integrated Office, Director in Burundi’s Foreign Affairs Ministry

With Burundi entering a new phase in its efforts to emerge from a long civil war, support to socio-economic rebuilding and the 2010 elections could now be the focus of international efforts in the tiny Great Lakes country, the head of the Burundi arm of the Peacebuilding Commission told the Security Council today.

“Peacebuilding in Burundi has clearly entered a new phase”, Per Orneus of Sweden told the Council on behalf of his ambassador, Anders Liden, Chair of the country-specific meetings on Burundi, who was joined at the briefing by Youssef Mahmoud, Executive Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the United Nations Integrated Office in Burundi (BINUB), and Adophe Nahayo, Director of the Department of International Organizations, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Burundi.

Mr. Orneus said that there had been impressive progress in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process and all children formerly associated with the Forces Nationales de Libération (FNL) had been reunited with their families.  The FNL itself, the last remaining rebel group, would participate in the upcoming elections as a political party.

At the same time, he said, the completion of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process, the elections and other efforts faced great challenges.  For that purpose, he welcomed the continued partnership of the international community and he encouraged continued leadership by South Africa, the Regional Initiative and the African Union.

Ex-combatants, returnees and internally displaced persons would need assistance for their long-term socio-economic reintegration, he said.  The Peacebuilding Commission would help mobilize support once a comprehensive strategy had been finalized by the Government in consultation with partners.

Due to concerns over security in the electoral process, based on recent reports of politically motivated violence, there was also a pressing need for further professionalization of the police and strengthening of the justice sector.  In addition, the Electoral Commission urgently needed basic equipment, as well as political, technical and financial support.  Other national partners, such as media, civil society, women organizations and national observers were also in acute need of support.

The Peacebuilding Commission, he said, could help set the agenda for international support to the elections, contribute to the coordination of international efforts and ensure that support was demand-driven, as well as mobilize additional resources when gaps emerged.  A thematic meeting of the Commission would soon be organized to discuss the support required and the conditions necessary for free and fair elections.

Presenting the Secretary-General’s fifth report on BINUB (document S/2009/270), Mr. Mahmoud said that progress had indeed been significant.  “The remaining part of 2009 will be a crucial period to safeguard what has been achieved and draw the lessons for future peacebuilding endeavours,” he said.

Some 3,500 FNL elements had been integrated into the military and police since April and FNL weapons had been destroyed or handed over to the Government, he said.  As of yesterday, 8 June, more than 5,000 of the 11,000 adults associated with the FNL had been registered, issued return kits, paid the first instalment of return assistance and transported to their home communities.  Additionally, between 20 and 22 May, some 103 persons, had been released from detention, based on an April ordinance from the Justice Ministry.  A total of 340 children who were separated from the FNL in April, had been reunited with their families in May.

In early June, the Government had issued several decrees nominating some 24 FNL leaders to senior civil service positions, including ambassadorial posts and governorships.  The South African Facilitation had ended its mission on 31 May, but 100 elements from the African Union Special Task Force VIP Protection Unit would remain in Burundi until 31 December to continue protection of FNL leaders, while training a newly created joint FNL-Government protection police unit.

The residual tasks of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process had been handed over to the Government, with oversight from the African Union with BINUB’s support, he said.  With the withdrawal of the Facilitation, the leaders of the Regional Peace Initiative had recommended that a successor mechanism be established to monitor the peace process, contribute to an enabling environment for the period leading up to the elections, and provide early warning to the Regional Initiative leaders.

That successor mechanism ‑‑ the Partnership for Peace in Burundi ‑‑ launched on 27 May, was composed of the Political Directorate, the Executive Secretariat of the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region and BINUB, which would serve as its secretariat.  The United Nations Peacebuilding Commission and the Special Envoys for the Great Lakes region would act as a support network for the Partnership, which was slated to end in December, subject to review by the Regional Initiative leaders and the Burundi Government.

On 11 May, President Pierre Nkurunziza had asked the Secretary-General for support to the electoral process.  So far, 43 parties had registered.  Concerns remained, however, about the violent disruption of the activities of opposition parties, allegedly carried out by the police, members of the National Intelligence Service and local officials.  In the report, the Secretary-General urged the Government to treat all political parties equally and to ensure free expression.

Preparations had advanced for the holding of national consultations on establishing transitional justice mechanism, the Executive Director said, noting that, among other challenges, Burundi also faced a difficult socio-economic situation, a weak justice system and, within the police force, continuing human rights violations and impunity.  He urged the Government to put an end to those violations, and welcomed yesterday’s statement of the Minister of Public Security regarding the action taken by the Government to address them.

He said that BINUB, along with projects funded by the Peacebuilding Fund had encouraged reform and engaged the population in peace consolidation.  Initiatives in the areas of administrative and political governance, justice and human rights, the fight against corruption, security sector reform and the empowerment of women and civil society had begun to show some tangible results.  The ongoing national dialogue process would help to restore a measure of social trust after decades of violence.  Robust and sustained efforts by national and international stakeholders were needed to ensure that progress would not be easily reversed.

Mr. Nahayo expressed appreciation for the recognition, in the Secretary-General’s report, of progress achieved towards stabilization of the country.  Burundi’s Government, he said, also shared a number of the concerns expressed in the report, particularly those over human rights and the protection of children, the situation of women, the persistence of corruption and the security of the population.

However, he added, it must be acknowledged that the Government was working in all those areas, with mechanisms to confront many of those problems already in place.  Contrary to the report, for example, he said the draft for establishing a National Independent Commission on Human Rights was already being prepared and the Government was integrating the principles of Paris into its charter before submitting it to Parliament for adoption.  In regard to the criminalization of homosexuality in the new Penal Code, the principle of separation of powers was being observed to allow the legislature to enact laws; the differences in cultures and the challenges that posed to legislative processes must be recognized.

The new Penal Code had made possible the fight against the abuse of women, although awareness-raising was also required, and the Government had created a brigade charged with the protection of minors, though it did not have sufficient resources.  He described efforts to liberate all children associated with fighting forces and said that the question of political prisoners had also been resolved.  The fight against corruption was being dealt with in the priority peacebuilding plan.

He also described efforts to increase the security of the population, adding that administrative actions would not be sufficient and the security sector had to be further strengthened and reformed.  Fourteen years of civil war had made security efforts much more difficult, as trust had to be built between the security sector and the people.  He further pointed out other gaps in the report, saying that, for example, it asserted that the National Council of Security did not exist, when it had already been functioning for half a year.

In addition, the Government had asked to discuss the recommendations of the evaluation mission sent to Burundi before their publication; that request was not taken into consideration.  The Government took note, however, that it would be consulted by the Secretary-General on the subject of the presence of the United Nations in the country before the expiration of BINUB’s mandate in December 2009.

Thanking the African Union and all those who had contributed to the peace process in his country, he paid special recognition to the support of the United Nations, expressing hope that it would continue as needed.

The meeting began at 10:15 a.m. and ended at 10:55 a.m.

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For information media. Not an official record.