Burundi : For the holding of free and inclusive elections in 2020 [fr]
Statement by Mr. Antoine Michon, Political Coordinator of France to the United Nations
Security Council - 19 février 2019
At the outset, I would like to warmly thank Mr. Michel Kafando, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Burundi, for his informative briefing and personal commitment to the matter at hand. I also thank the Swiss Ambassador, Mr. Jürg Lauber, who is doing extremely useful work as Chair of the Burundi configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission. I also thank Ms. Fatima Mohammad, Permanent Observer of the African Union, for her important statement.
Today I want to focus on three points: first, the preparation of the 2020 elections; secondly, the human rights situation; and, thirdly, the role of the international community in supporting Burundi.
First, I will address the elections in 2020. France would like to welcome the recognition last week of the Congrès national pour la liberté, led by Agathon Rwasa, as a political party, which allows it to participate in the upcoming elections. That is a step in the right direction and confirms the approach initiated by President Nkurunziza last June in committing to not stand for re-election.
We are indeed convinced that Burundi will find its way back to stability by holding free and inclusive elections in 2020, in accordance with the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement. It is now time for Burundi to prepare, without delay, for those elections in the best possible way. The positive momentum that has been kick-started must now be maintained by ensuring that all political parties have fair and equitable access to the elections. The democratic space must be preserved and open to all, and civil and political rights must be respected to allow for a peaceful debate.
To that end, I encourage the Burundian authorities to continue the inter-Burundian dialogue, which is a key dialogue between the authorities and the opposition. In that regard, I would like to acknowledge the personal involvement of the facilitator mandated by the East African Community, former President Mkapa, whose determination to stay on course deserves to be commended. We must build on the work he has done and find ways together to continue his efforts.
Secondly, with respect to human rights, France respects Burundi’s sovereignty but remains particularly vigilant and expects Burundi to take additional and concrete measures to respect human rights. After the unfortunate closure of the Burundi office of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, we wish to reiterate our call on the authorities of Burundi to engage in fuller cooperation with the United Nations human rights protection mechanisms and to fight impunity. We stand ready to support the Burundian authorities in the resumption of dialogue with United Nations entities.
France is closely monitoring the humanitarian situation and the fate of internally displaced persons and refugees. It is important that refugee returns take place on a voluntary basis and in a safe and dignified manner, in accordance with the principles of international humanitarian law. We count on the Burundian authorities to ensure that refugee returns take place in the best possible conditions and we are ready to assist them in so doing.
Finally, the international community must remain fully mobilized to support the people of Burundi. Next year’s elections will be a crucial and sensitive time. We must not abandon Burundi in midstream. It is up to the East African Community and the African Union to continue their work to provide the best possible support for the preparation of the elections and the emergence of the country from crisis. The United Nations will of course have an important role to play in providing the best possible support for the process at the regional level.
We are also increasingly concerned about the increase in violence in the Great Lakes region. We would like to express our concern at the possibility that increased tensions could lead to further destabilization at the regional level. Nevertheless, we note the desire for peaceful change that has been expressed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the course of the recent presidential elections, which reflects a collective aspiration for greater stability and prosperity. We hope that this positive development will inspire all the countries of the region and we are ready to support them as they move in that direction.
In conclusion, we would like to say that the mission of Mr. Kafando and his team remains necessary and we encourage the Special Envoy to continue his consultative work in order to rapidly present the Council with options on the role that the United Nations could play in support of regional efforts.