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Burundi Presidential Statement

Tomorrow (2 August), the Council is expected to adopt a presidential statement on Burundi addressing the political, security, humanitarian and human rights challenges in the country.

Council members met on Tuesday (25 July) and Wednesday (26 July) to negotiate the text, which was produced by France, the penholder on Burundi. In an effort to express a unified Council position on the situation in Burundi, the draft text relies mostly on previously agreed language from resolution 2303 of 29 July 2016, which requested the Secretary-General to establish a UN police component in Burundi of up to 228 police for an initial one-year period, and the press statement of 13 March (SC/12750), which expressed concern about the humanitarian and human rights situation in the country and the slow progress of the Inter-Burundian dialogue. After the draft was put under silence on Wednesday (26 July), China, Egypt and Russia requested an extension of the silence procedure until Friday (28 July) morning. Silence was not broken, and the adoption has been scheduled for tomorrow.

The statement comes amidst disagreement among Council members over whether the mandate of the UN police component authorised in resolution 2303 requires renewal. The resolution requested the Secretary-General to establish this component “to monitor the security situation and to support OHCHR [the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights] in monitoring human rights violations and abuses…”. The Burundian government was known at the time to be—and has remained—firmly opposed to the deployment of this component, which has not taken place. This fact made the adoption of the resolution a matter of grave disagreement between Council members at the time. As a result, the resolution was adopted with four Council members abstaining (Angola, China, Egypt and Venezuela) on the vote.

In recent days, some Council members have maintained that the one-year mandate given to the police component in resolution 2303 would not expire on 29 July, as the component was never in fact established, interpreting the mandate as to begin upon its actual deployment. Others, however, were of the view that the mandate of the police component would expire unless renewed by 29 July.

These two positions would seem difficult to reconcile. The approach taken on the draft presidential statement was to draw from the 13 March press statement: without explicitly calling for the deployment of a police component, the draft presidential statement expresses the Council’s full support to the Secretary-General in his efforts to engage the government of Burundi on the modalities of the implementation of resolution 2303.

A number of other issues are addressed in the draft. It expresses the Council’s concern over the political situation, the lack of implementation of resolution 2303, and the lack of engagement by the government of Burundi in that regard. It calls for all Burundian stakeholders to take part actively and unconditionally in the East African Community (EAC)-led and AU-endorsed Inter-Burundian dialogue towards a political solution.

It further states the Council’s concern about the humanitarian and human rights situation in the country, and reiterates its regret at the decision by Burundi to suspend all cooperation and collaboration with OHCHR, stressing that OHCHR has been present in the country since 1995 to strengthen Burundi’s rule of law institutions. It calls on OHCHR and Burundi to agree on a memorandum of understanding to enable OHCHR to fully resume its activities, including its monitoring and reporting functions, and fulfill its mandate.

The draft also supports the AU's call for the rapid signing of the memorandum of understanding, which will allow the AU human rights observers and military experts to fully operate in the country in fulfilment of their mandated responsibilities. (This deployment was authorised by the AU Peace and Security Council in a 17 October 2015 communiqué (PSC/PR/COMM.(DLI)).) The draft presidential statement notes that only 40 human rights observers (out of 100 authorised) and eight military observers (out of 100 authorised) have been deployed thus far.

The draft reinforces some of themes highlighted in the Council chamber on Wednesday (26 July) during a briefing on Burundi, followed by consultations (S/PV.8013). The briefers were Special Envoy Michel Kafando and Ambassador Jürg Lauber (Switzerland), the chair of the Peacebuilding Commission’s Burundi configuration. (Benjamin Mkapa, the EAC’s mediator heading the Inter-Burundian dialogue, was also due to engage with Council members, but was unable to do so for personal reasons).

Kafando, who visited Burundi from 7 to 13 July, emphasised the need for inclusive dialogue without preconditions among the various political actors in Burundi as a prerequisite for any resolution to the crisis. In particular, he stressed the importance of the Burundian government’s accession to the request of the countries in the subregion and the AU, supported by the UN, to engage in such dialogue.

Lauber maintained that socioeconomic efforts must complement mediation processes underway. While observing that the security situation in Bujumbura had appeared calm during his recent visit there, he said that some cases of violence had been reported during the visit and referenced reports about “the prevalence of a climate of fear and repression.”

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