posted on FRI 1 APR 2016 4:49 PM
Adoption of a Resolution on Burundi

Today (1 April), the Security Council is set to adopt a resolution on enhancing the UN presence in Burundi. The draft resolution initially circulated by France on 29 March comes after an attempt in late February to adopt a presidential statement on Burundi which was unsuccessful due to a lack of consensus. France decided yesterday to put the draft resolution to a vote despite remaining disagreement over elements in the text on the part of the US; however, it seems that bilateral exchanges today enabled Council members to achieve consensus.

After the failed February negotiations, African members of the Council suggested a discussion on the outcome of recent high-level visits to the country (for more information see our 18 March What’s in Blue story). The Council was then briefed on 18 March by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and Ambassador Jürg Lauber, the chair of the Peacebuilding Commission’s (PBC) Burundi Configuration.

The main point of contention during the failed negotiations on the draft presidential statement concerned planning for a possible UN police presence in Burundi. Some Council members wanted the issue of a police presence to be framed in the context of the support team of the Special Adviser for conflict prevention, Jamal Benomar, as they believed that this was the only realistic way to obtain Burundi’s consent to an UN deployment of police forces. However, the US took the position that the idea of UN police deployment should be dealt with in the text as a stand-alone issue, as police deployment is beyond the scope of the Special Adviser’s support team, and the latter would not have the capacity to oversee such a deployment. (For more on these negotiations, please see our 24 February What’s in Blue story).

The issue of an enhanced UN presence was again at the heart of the negotiations between Council members on the draft resolution. France’s initial draft text requested the Secretary-General to enhance the UN presence in Burundi through Benomar’s support team and, “in this regard, further requests” the Secretary-General, in consultation with the government and in coordination with the AU, to present within 15 days options for a police component to increase UN capacity to monitor the security situation, advance the rule of law and promote respect for human rights.

During the negotiations, Council members reiterated their previous positions. As a compromise proposal, France added language to the text on the general enhancement of the UN “engagement” (rather than “presence”) in Burundi through Benomar’s office, and later in the paragraph, added that, “in this regard”, the Secretary-General should present options for a police ”contribution” (rather than “component”). The intention behind the compromise revision was to retain the link between Benomar’s office and the options for the police component, while creating some separation between the two. This issue remained contentious throughout the negotiations, but it seems that this compromise solution is now acceptable to all Council members.

Another important element of the draft resolution concerns the inter-Burundian dialogue. Some Council members have been supportive of the Burundi government’s position that talks should only be held with those that are not supportive of violent acts, and agreed language in Council documents thus far has referred to “peaceful stakeholders”. Others see this position as allowing the government to exclude certain opposition groups and figures from the process subjectively and as a tactic to delay meaningful dialogue. They wanted the Council to use language that is closer to that used by the AU Peace and Security Council, which has been calling for a dialogue between “all stakeholders” without prior conditions. The draft resolution tries to bridge the difference of opinions by omitting the phrase “peaceful stakeholders”. Instead, it calls on Burundi and other stakeholders to cooperate with the East African Community-led mediation and urgently agree on a timetable and list of participants for an inclusive dialogue of “all stakeholders committed to a peaceful solution”. (This is understood as more expansive than “peaceful stakeholders” and less susceptible to subjective interpretation). The draft resolution also highlights the AU Peace and Security Council’s position that such a dialogue should be held outside the country, thus allowing opposition figures who have fled Burundi to participate with due regard to their safety. However, some Council members, such as Russia and Egypt, still wanted to have at least one reference to “peaceful stakeholders” in the text, in addition to the newly formulated language.

The draft resolution also takes note of certain improvements on the ground: it welcomes steps taken by Burundi to cancel some media bans and arrest warrants and to release detainees, and calls on Burundi to fully implement commitments it has made to this effect and expand these measures. It further welcomes Burundi’s agreement to increase to 200 the number of AU human rights and military observers, notes that 45 observers have been deployed thus far and urges Burundi to fully cooperate and facilitate their work. (It seems that Burundi and the AU have yet to agree on the terms of their deployment in the country).

Regarding external actors, the draft resolution calls on states in the region to refrain from supporting the activities of armed groups. (Burundi claims that rebel groups are being armed and assisted by Rwanda, a charge also made by the Group of Experts assisting the Democratic Republic of the Congo Sanctions Committee. Rwanda denies these allegations.)

With respect to actors both inside and outside of Burundi, the draft resolution expresses the Council’s intention to consider measures against actors whose actions and statements perpetuate violence and impede a peaceful solution.

Finally, it requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council regularly on the situation in Burundi.