Burundi under increased UN scrutiny

The UN Human Rights Committee published a critical report on the situation in Burundi. The Security Council subsequently discussed the stability in Burundi and the UN Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide says that Burundi must increase the political space for dialogue “to avert the worst”.-By Lorraine Josiane Manishatse
and Jojanneke Spoor

Adama Dieng, the Special Adviser to the United Nation Secretary- General on the Prevention of Genocide

Adama Dieng, the Special Adviser to the United Nation
Secretary- General on the Prevention of Genocide

The UN Committee on Human Rights published its concluding remarks late October based on the second periodic report of Burundi, which was 17 years late. The list of recommendations is long and elaborate. It includes issues such as the discrimination of albino’s, homosexuals and women. The committee lso expressed specific concern about allegations of a large number of extrajudicial killings, especially in the ftermath of the 2010 elections. Proper investigations have not been carried out. The committee urges the government to take all necessary and effective measures to combat impunity. “The State party should strengthen training in human rights (…) aimed at security forces and defense.”

Mere days after the report was published, the security situation in Burundi was discussed in the UN Security Council. The meeting on November 5th was held as the United Nations Office in Burundi (BNUB) prepares to withdraw at the end of 2014. BNUB’s Head Parfait Onanga-Anyanga stressed the need for continued international support ahead of critical elections in 2015 and in face of development challenges. “Burundi will continue to need strong support from all its partners to overcome outstanding challenges and implement its national poverty alleviation and development strategy”, he said. In a separate meeting, commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the top UN advisor on preventing genocide warned of a rise in political violence. Burundi, he said, needed to see “ an enlargement of the space for freedom so that human rights are respected”.

Adama Dieng, the Special Adviser to the United Nation ecretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, indicated all political actors in Burundi should commit to dialogue to prevent the worst from happening. “I urge Burundian authorities, political parties and civil society organizations to manage the political d i f f e r e n c e s that exist in Burundi in a constructive way”, he said, adding that it’s important to have confidence in one another in order to break the cycle of violence ahead of the 2015 elections. “No state should claim sovereignty in order to quietly commit urders.” “The governing party is not alone in its responsibility for security.

Everybody must be vigilant. The government has the primary responsibility because members of the governing party occupy the most mportant posts related to protection and national security”, he says.

BNUB leaves ahead of the 2015 elections

While concluding his BNUB mandate, Mr. Onanga-Anyanga seemed pleased with the overall achievements. He said that Burundi has continued to enjoy a mainly stable security environment, with a drop in political violence. In his briefing to the UN Security Council, Mr. Onanga-Anyanga mentioned regular calls by the President of the ruling party warning perpetrators against disruption of public meetings and threats against members of opposition parties, civil society organizations and journalists. However, worries remain. Burundi’s last elections in 2010 were boycotted by most opposition parties.

In the run up to next year’s polls, opposition leaders are again accusing the ruling CNDD-FDD party of eliminating any dissent. Problems with the Independent National Electoral Commission and trials of major opposition figures have led to renewed accusations of partiality on the part of the Government. “It is not too late to transform these misunderstandings into an opportunity to reinforce trust in the electoral process”, Mr. Onanga-Anyanga said.