We must encourage the launch of a genuinely inclusive inter-Burundian dialogue [fr]
Security Council mission to Burundi - Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations- Security Council - 29 January 2016
On 21 and 22 January, the Security Council visited Burundi for the second time in less than a year, following the trip we organized under the French presidency of the Council in March 2015. As one of the organizers of the mission, along with the United States and Angola, I have the honour, as is customary, to give the Council an informational briefing on our visit to Burundi. The representative of Egypt, who oversaw the African Union segment of the Council’s visit, on 23 January, will brief us on the visit to Addis Ababa. I will then make a few remarks in my national capacity.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Secretariat for the significant efforts it made to organize this visit, enabling us to do it under good conditions and make it as productive as possible. I would also like to thank the Burundian officials and others whom we met with there for making themselves available to us.
The visit falls into the category of follow-up on the situation in Burundi, which continues to be a matter of considerable concern to the Council. To start with, I should note that the Security Council adopted resolution 2248 (2015) on 12 November and a presidential statement (S/PRST/2015/18) on 28 October and made a press statement on 19 December 2015; those served as terms of reference and a guide for the messages the Security Council wanted to convey to its interlocutors during the visit. Essentially, the Council emphasized the vital importance of refraining from any form of violence, strengthening the political dialogue that began on 28 December 2015, protecting the people by ensuring better respect for human rights and improving relations with the international community, whether as represented by the East African Community, the African Union or the United Nations.
The Council first met with a group that included two elder statesmen, former Chairs of the United Nations Expert Panel on the Regional Peace Initiative in Burundi, and we were able to fully come to grips on the importance of full compliance with both the letter and the spirit of the terms of the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement for finding a solution to the current situation in Burundi. The Security Council delegation then met with the Burundi representative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, who gave us a thorough account of the situation in Burundi and went over the negative developments of the past few months.
We sat down with representatives of civil society, whose accounts testified to their defiance of the Burundian authorities, particularly the security forces, and to the clear and urgent need for protection by the international community. The Council also met with various independent media representatives, who described the very difficult conditions under which they are still attempting to conduct their professional activities; with various representatives of the political opposition, including in the National Assembly and the Government, from whom we heard quite pointed criticism; and with members of the so-called radical opposition, not represented in the official institutions, who painted a very gloomy picture of the political and security situation. In their view, genocide was either already happening in Burundi or was about to.
We also had the opportunity to talk to three of the principal members of the Burundian authorities, who, unlike those whom I have just cited, who described serious political and security problems, gave us a very upbeat and optimistic picture of the current situation. We held a meeting with Burundi’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Alain Nyamitwe, to discuss the political and security aspects of the current situation and Burundi’s relations with various elements of the international community — the East African Community, the African Union and the United Nations. Burundi’s First Vice-President, Gaston Sindimwo, received us in his home for an exchange of views on the security and political situation and relations between Burundi and the international community.
Finally, Mr. Pierre Nkurunziza, President of the Republic, hosted a discussion with the Security Council at his residence in Gitega. After he had heard what the Council had to say, he went over recent developments in Burundi with a positive and hopeful spin on the current situation in the country. He said that as far as he was concerned, the reports we have been seeing in the international media were wrong. He welcomed the fact that the dialogue in Kampala had been resumed on 28 December, considering that in his view only the Head of State of Uganda was in a position to support the inter-Burundian process under way. President Nkurunziza again reiterated his firm opposition to any interference from outside, in particular from the African Union. He thanked the Council for its attention to Burundi over the years and said that he was fully prepared to continue to maintain good relations with the United Nations.
The Council then travelled to Ethiopia to meet with the African Union, and I will hand that part over to my Egyptian colleague, with the understanding that it is clear that the Council has lessons to draw from our trip to Burundi in the light of the decisions that the regional actors will be making very soon. Before my colleague takes the floor, I would like to make a few brief comments in my national capacity.
As the Council knows, France has been following the situation in Burundi closely and with great concern. Since the crisis began we have been calling on all the parties involved to halt the violence and begin a dialogue aimed at reaching a consensus solution that respects the Arusha Agreement, which now more than ever constitutes the compass both for us and for all the stakeholders in Burundi. France immediately suspended its defence and security cooperation with Burundi, and the African Union, the East African Community and the Ugandan mediators have also been working on the issue. France has given its full support to encouraging efforts to open an inclusive dialogue with the African mediation and has advocated for the adoption of European sanctions against three of the people close to power and one member of the armed opposition, in order to increase the pressure on the parties involved. Consultations between the European Union and the Burundian authorities began at the beginning of December. In Geneva, the European Union got the Human Rights Council to request that the High Commissioner for Human Rights assess the situation. The statements made by various sectors of the population have given rise to fears that the situation is worsening, and France and its partners have given the authorities and the radical opposition clear warnings.
On France’s initiative, as I said, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2248 (2015), condemning the violence and urging all the parties to open a dialogue, on pain of sanctions. The resolution also calls for strengthening the United Nations presence in Burundi. France will continue to support the African initiatives in Addis Ababa, Geneva and Brussels. Lastly, we were concerned to learn of the arrest in Burundi of a French journalist, Jean-Philippe Rémy, and a British photographer, Philip Moore. We call on the Burundian authorities to release them immediately, with the understanding that diplomatic efforts are under way to that end.
As I said, the fact that we have had to visit Burundi for the second time in less than a year is testament to the Council’s concern and involvement and is a necessary stage in that involvement. We should bear in mind that we will put together all the lessons there are to be learned from the visit and, in the light of the outcome of the African Union Summit, we should shoulder our responsibility to break the cycle of violence, encourage the launch of a genuinely inclusive inter-Burundian dialogue