posted on Tue 26 Apr 2016 5:23 PM
Burundi:Briefing on Options for Police Deployment

Tomorrow (27 April), Council members will be briefed under “any other business” by Under-Secretary-General for Peackeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous and Special Advisor for conflict prevention Jamal Benomar on the recent options sent to the Council by the Secretary-General for the deployment of a police “contribution” in Burundi (S/2016/352). While yet to be confirmed at press time, it is possible that a representative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) may also participate.

Resolution 2279 of 1 April requested the Secretary-General to enhance the UN’s engagement in Burundi through the support team of the Special Adviser for conflict prevention, Jamal Benomar, and, in this regard, requested the Secretary-General, in consultation with the government and in coordination with the AU, to present within 15 days options for a police contribution to increase UN capacity to monitor the security situation, advance the rule of law and promote respect for human rights.

Though the resolution was adopted unanimously, disagreement over the language regarding the options for a police component persisted until just a couple of hours before its adoption. The US took the position that the idea of UN police deployment should be dealt with in the text as a stand-alone issue, while Egypt and Russia maintained that a police component should be structured under the office of Benomar. (For more on these negotiations, please see our 1 April story).

Following the vote on the resolution, Benomar consulted with the Burundi government on the options for a police presence. Burundi sent a note verbale to the Secretary-General on 7 April expressing reservations over any “armed international presence” in Burundi. A letter from the Permanent Representative of Burundi on 13 April said that Burundi would accept around 20 unarmed police experts to assist the Burundian national police develop its capacities in 13 specified areas.

In a 15 April letter, the Secretary-General provided the Council with three options for a police deployment to monitor the security situation, promote respect for human rights, advance the rule of law and build the capacity of the local police.

The first option is a highly visible 3,000-strong police protection and monitoring force. In addition to the tasks above, this force would have some capacity to protect civilians; however, according to the letter, its deployment could take months and present logistical difficulties.

The second option entails the deployment of UN police officers who would work together with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Burundi, and possibly with AU human rights monitors, in order to enhance monitoring capacities. This option calls for an initial deployment of 228 police officers. It would not provide any protection capacities.

The third option would be a small deployment of 20-50 UN personnel focused on strategic engagement with the Police National du Burundi, assessing the police’s operational and institutional limitations and weaknesses, and identifying strategies for future UN police engagement. According to the letter, the small size of this deployment would mean that it would be limited in its ability to fulfil its tasks, while its engagement with the police might result in an appearance of partiality in the eyes of the population. It would however have the advantages of flexibility and swift deployment.

Council members will want to hear the current status of Benomar’s consultations with the Burundian government and its views on these options. Benomar may emphasise that whatever option is ultimately pursued, it should be viewed in the broader context of finding a sustainable political solution to the current instability in the country. Members will probably be interested in information from Benomar on the next steps in the political dialogue between the government and the opposition, including the efforts of former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, who is mediating on behalf of the East African Community. It appears that efforts are being made to convene the parties for talks in early May; members will most likely be keen to receive news on whether these talks have been confirmed, and if so, what sort of preparations are being made.

Ladsous is expected to brief on the three options proposed in the Secretary-General’s letter, and provide a better understanding of the technical implications of implementing each of them. Among other matters, logistical support, police generation, and the potential risks and challenges with relation to each of these three options could be a focus of the discussion. It is possible that there may be interest in knowing what criteria were used to derive the proposed numbers of police personnel for each of the options.

Whether or not an OHCHR representative briefs tomorrow, some members will probably express concerns about the ongoing violence and reported human rights violations in the country. On 18 April, General Ahtanase Kararuza, a supporter of President Pierre Nkurunziza, was killed together with his wife while taking their child to school. On the same day, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced that her office would be opening “a preliminary examination into the situation in Burundi since April 2015” in order “to reach a fully informed determination on whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation.” She referred in particular to reports “detailing acts of killing, imprisonment, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence, as well as cases of enforced disappearances….[that] appear to fall within the jurisdiction of the ICC.” The ICC’s opening of this examination could be alluded to by some delegations, although it does not seem that this will be a significant focus of discussion.

Notwithstanding the unanimous position reflected in resolution 2279, Council members have differed on their approach towards the current crisis in Burundi and the deployment of police to Burundi. Angola, Egypt and Russia have tended to emphasise the importance of host country consent, and therefore, appear to be more amenable to Burundi’s desire for a minimal non-armed deployment of police with an emphasis on training. On the other hand, some members, including the US, while recognising the need for the consent of the host state, appear more inclined to pressure Burundi to accept a more robust and armed police presence that will monitor the situation as well as train local police.