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Burundi: Diplomacy Falling Short

AfricaFocus Bulletin
July 14, 2015 (150714)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

As Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni travels to Burundi for yet another attempt to mediate in the crisis caused by the determination of President Pierre Nkurunziza to seek a third term in the elections now scheduled for July 21, it is clear that international diplomatic efforts are still failing to reverse increasing repression and escalation of violence. Despite multiple mediators and international declarations of concern, most recently calling for disarmament of the pro-government militias and commitment to a government of national unity, the incumbent president has good reason to conclude that he can continue to resist the pleas of his international critics as well as to repress internal opposition.

Despite apparent consensus, pressure from both the East African Community (EAC) and the African Union (AU) is weakened by the example of its own leaders who have followed similar strategies to remain in power, from African Union chair Robert Mugabe to the latest mediator Yoweri Museveni. Although the United States and some European countries have been outspoken in their criticism of Nkurunziza, they are well aware that the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia still depends on troops from Burundi.

For two recent articles on reasons for the failure of diplomatic efforts, see Simon Allison, "Why Somalia is the Burundian president's trump card," Daily Maverick, July 6, 2015 ( and Simon Allison, "Despite their criticism, did the international community enable Nkurunziza’s third term bid?," Daily Maverick, June 30, 2015 (

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains documents on the most recent United Nations, African Union, and East Africa Community responses to the crisis in Burundi, as well as an op-ed by Salim Salim, who as Secretary General of the Organization of African Unity negotiated the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement for Burundi signed in the year 2000.

For a Reuters news summary of the current situation as of July 13, see

For an article with more extensive analysis of the UN role and on Burundi's role in Somalia peacekeeping, see "UN peacebuilding efforts in years preceding the crisis, see "What Burundi’s crisis says about U.N. capacity to build peace," Washington Post, May 18, 2015 (, and "Is Burundi still a credible peacekeeper?," Washington Post, May 23, 2015 (

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Burundi, with additional background and links, visit and

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++

A week from presidential polls, Burundi on 'brink of devastating violence,' Security Council told

9 July 2015 – Two weeks after the contested legislative and communal elections that took place in Burundi and with presidential polls just days away, senior United Nations officials warned the Security Council today that situation prevailing in the Central African country is once again at risk of sliding into violence.

"Burundi is on the brink again [and] the grave danger the country faces should not be underestimated, given the increasing polarization and the apparent choice of Burundian leaders to put personal interest before those of the country," declared UN Assistant-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Taye-Brook Zerihoun.

"An escalating pattern of politically motivated violence, coupled with this country's history of recurring bloodshed and atrocities, should alert us to the potential for serious crisis," underlined UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein.

Both officials echoed similar concern as they briefed the Security Council on the situation in Burundi; Mr. Zehiroun on the electoral process and the political and security situations through the work of the UN Election Observation Mission (MENUB) and Mr. Zeid on the protection and promotion of human rights.

"On 2 July, MENUB assessed that the legislative and communal electoral process of June 29 took place against the background of a political crisis, and in a climate of widespread fear and intimidation in parts of the country," said the Assistant Secretary-General.

Some opposition political parties and civil society organizations, notably those opposed to a third term for President Pierre Nkurunziza, called the elections a "sham" and declared they would not recognize the results.

Fundamental freedoms of participation, assembly, expression, opinion and information suffered increasing restrictions during the campaign period and as Election Day drew nearer, according to the MENUB observers deployed in all 18 provinces of Burundi.

In the past six months, went on to say Mr. Zeid, members of opposition parties, civil society activists and media figures have been targeted for intimidation, severe harassment and arbitrary detention.

"Peaceeful protests have been met with unwarranted use of force, including lethal force, in violation of Burundi's obligation under national and international law to guarantee the right to freedom of assembly. Demonstrators have been imprisoned and subjected to torture and ill-treatment. We have also received reports of extrajudicial killings. To date these violations have not been investigated, prosecuted or sanctioned."

While MENUB assessed that the Independent National Election Commission adequately handled the voter registration and the nomination of candidates, opposition parties repeatedly accused the electoral management body of "lacking credibility and independence," continued Mr. Zehiroun.

Preparations and arrangements for Election Day were largely sufficient, and instances of violence and explosions preceded, and in some cases took place alongside Election Day activities, mostly in Bujumbura, he pointed out.

"In view of its findings, MENUB concluded that the environment was not conducive for free, credible and inclusive elections. The African Union, the Eastern African Community, and the International Conference on Great Lakes Region expressed similar concerns."

According to the Election Commission, the preliminary results of the legislative elections show that Conseil national pour la défense de la démocratie-Forces pour la défense de la démocratie (CNDD-FDD), the party received 60.2 per cent of the votes, a result rejected by the opposition, Mr. Zehiroun said.

"Preparations for the presidential election are ongoing. Ballot papers have been printed with all the eight candidates approved by the Election Commission including those who have announced they would boycott the elections," he stressed, adding that the political and security situations in Burundi have remained tense and volatile since the polls.

"The crisis arising from President Nkurunziza's decision to run for a third term in office has undermined a decade of steady progress in building democratic institutions, and precious gains in the sense of a common national community," warned UN rights chief Zeid, stressing that more than 145,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries, and convinced that Burundi is on the brink of "devastating violence" again.

Contrary to some recent reports, the massive outflows of refuges appear to have been sparked, not by rumour, but by precise and targeted campaigns of intimidation and terror. Refugees interviewed by his Office in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Tanzania continue to refer to the Imbonerakure militia as the main threat, but some have also stated that militants from other groups are also employing violence – a new and disturbing development.

During an emergency summit on 6 July, the Assistant SecretaryGeneral added, the East African Community (EAC) issued a Communiqué, in which were made a number of recommendations, including the postponement of the presidential elections to July 30th 2015; the formation of a government of national unity involving both who participated in the elections and those that did not; and the deployment of an EAC electoral mission to observe the presidential elections.

For Mr. Zehiroun, that Communiqué is a "clear path forward".

According to the UN, civil unrest erupted on 26 April in Bujumbura after the ruling CNDD-FDD party elected President Pierre Nkurunziza on 25 April as its candidate for then-scheduled 26 June presidential election. Mr. Nkurunziza has been in office for two terms since 2005, and a broad array of actors warned that an attempt to seek a third term was unconstitutional and contrary to the spirit of the 2000 Arusha PEACe and Reconciliation Agreement for Burundi that ended a decade of civil war in the country.

The African Union reaffirms the imperative for dialogue and consensus in order to peacefully resolve the current crisis in Burundi

The AU ready to deploy human rights observers and military experts

Press Release

Addis Ababa, 8 July 2015: The Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union (AU), Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, reiterates the AU's deep concern at the prevailing situation in Burundi and the serious risks it poses to peace and security in the country, as well as to regional stability.

The Chairperson of the Commission welcomes the continued efforts of the region to assist in finding a peaceful and consensual solution to the crisis facing Burundi. In this respect, she congratulates the Heads of State of the East African Community (EAC) for holding a 3rd Emergency Summit on Burundi, in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, on 6 July 2015. She encourages the regional leaders to pursue and intensify their efforts, bearing in mind the urgency and the seriousness of the situation. She looks forward to the steps to be taken by President Yoweri Museveni, in his capacity as Facilitator of the Inter-Burundian Dialogue.

In this respect, the Commission will continue to work closely with the EAC and extend all necessary support to the efforts of its Facilitator. The Chairperson of the Commission emphasizes, once again, that only genuine dialogue among the Burundian stakeholders and consensus based on respect of the Arusha Agreement for PEACe and Reconciliation in Burundi and the Constitution of the country would make it possible to find a lasting solution to the current crisis. She stresses the critical importance of national ownership. The Chairperson of the Commission urges all concerned to eschew violence and resort exclusively to peaceful means in order to overcome the current challenges. She underlines the need for the scrupulous respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Chairperson of the Commission renews the AU's commitment to contribute to the search for a peaceful solution, within the framework of the communiqué adopted by the PEACe and Security Council (PSC) at its 515th meeting held in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 13 June 2015, at the level of Heads of State and Government.

The Chairperson of the Commission recalls that at its 515th meeting, the PSC agreed on the immediate deployment of human rights observers, as well as on the deployment of AU military experts to verify, in collaboration with the Government and other concerned actors, the process of disarming the militias and other armed groups. She further recalls that the just-concluded EAC Summit called on the Government of Burundi to disarm the Imbonerakure and other armed youth groups allied to political parties, and requested the AU to urgently deploy military observers to oversee the disarmament process. In this respect, the Commission has put in place a Start-up Team of civilian and military experts ready for immediate deployment to Burundi, while efforts are underway to generate additional personnel. The AU looks forward to the urgent confirmation by the Government of Burundi of its readiness to receive the Team without any further delay.

East African Community

The 3rd Emergency Summit of Heads Of State of the East African Community on the Situation In Burundi


EAC Secretariat, Arusha, Tanzania, July 6, 2015

  1. The East African Community (EAC) convened the 3rd emergency summit at the level of heads of state in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, on 6 July 2015, to review the situation in Burundi, under the chairmanship of H.E. President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete of the United Republic of Tanzania, and in the presence of H.E. President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of the Republic of Uganda. The summit was also attended by Hon. Amina Mohamed, cabinet secretary, ministry of foreign affairs and international trade representing H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta; Hon. Amb. Valentine Rugwabiza, minister for EAC affairs representing H.E. President Paul Kagame of the Republic of Rwanda; Hon. Allain Nyamitwe, minister for external relations and international cooperation, representing H.E. President Pierre Nkurunziza of the Republic of Burundi; Hon. Manuel Agusto, secretary of state, representing H.E. President Jose dos Santos of the Republic of Angola; Amb. Thamsanga Museleku, representing H.E. President Jacob Zuma of the Republic of South Africa; Amb. Smaïl Eheragui, representing H.E. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, chairperson of the African Union Commission.

  2. The summit was also attended by ministers of EAC partner states, the Secretary General of the EAC, Amb. Dr. Richard Sezibera; the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission for the Great Lakes Region, Professor Ibrahima Fall; the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for Central Africa, Professor Abdoulaye Bathily; the executive secretary of the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), Professor Ntumba Luaba and members of the EAC Panel Of Eminent Persons including Justice Joseph Warioba and Amb. Bethuel Kiplagat.

  3. The summit took place as a follow-up to the EAC emergency summit of 31st May 2015 and in the context of the communiqué adopted by the 515th meeting of the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC), held in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 13 June 2015.

  4. Given the continuing political impasse in Burundi, the summit appointed H.E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, president of the Republic of Uganda to facilitate dialogue at the highest level, among the parties in Burundi with a view to finding solutions to all contentious issues.

  5. The summit also took the following decisions:
    1. The presidential elections currently scheduled for the 15 July, 2015 should be postponed to July 30th 2015 to allow time for the facilitator to lead the dialogue.
    2. Whoever wins the presidential elections in Burundi should form a government of national unity involving those who participated in elections and those who did not; and should as necessary provide seats for special interest groups.
    3. Whichever political party wins the presidential elections and all other political parties commit to uphold the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement and commit not to amend the constitution of Burundi in respect to term limits and other fundamental principles enshrined in the Arusha agreement.
    4. The EAC to send an electoral observer mission to observe the presidential elections in the Republic of Burundi.
    5. The government of Burundi to disarm Imbonerakure and other armed youth groups allied to political parties.
    6. The AU should urgently deploy military observers to oversee the disarmament process.
    7. The extended joint verification mechanism and the joint intelligence fusion centre of the ICGLR should urgently deploy to Burundi to verify allegations of the presence of FDLR in the country.

  6. The AU is urgently requested to consider and endorse these decisions.

  7. The summit called upon African Union, the United Nations and all other partners to cooperate with the EAC towards the attainment of these decisions.

  8. On behalf of attendees of the summit, H.E. President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of the Republic of Uganda thanked H.E. President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete of the United Republic of Tanzania for the warm and cordial hospitality extended to them and their respective delegations during their stay in Tanzania.

Done at Dar es Salaam on this 6th day of July, 2015.

Op-Ed: A crucial moment to protect peace in Burundi

Salim Ahmed Salim

Daily Maverick, 8 Jun 2015

Dr Salim Ahmed Salim is a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Defence and Prime Minister of the United Republic of Tanzania; and former Secretary General of the Organisation of African Unity, from 1989-2001.

Fifteen years ago, as secretary general of the Organisation of African Unity, I bore witness to a historic peace agreement in Arusha, Tanzania, heralding peace for Burundi after 10 gruelling years of civil war. With Nelson Mandela at my side, I witnessed the dawn of a new era for a country beset by conflict and in a region shaken by genocide in neighbouring Rwanda.

I fear hard-earned peace in Burundi is under imminent threat. An attempted coup d'état last month is the latest indicator that peace in the country is once again teetering on the brink. Immediate measures need to be implemented to de-escalate the situation, or the country could descend into civil war once again.

If there was ever a time for President Pierre Nkurunziza and his government to display courageous leadership, it is now. For the sake of all Burundians, we need them to commit to restoring the unity of the country through dialogue and take a series of concrete steps.

First, the President must acknowledge that the political and security conditions do not currently exist for peaceful, credible, transparent and inclusive elections. Creating these conditions must be the priority of the government and the international community.

Second, the government needs to prove its commitment to democracy by respecting the basic freedoms of assembly and expression. Protestors must not be equated with the putschists that attempted to seize power. Regardless of the rights or wrongs of Nkurunziza's bid for a third term, Burundians have a right to demonstrate peacefully and voice their opinions without being violently attacked by police.

Third, the government should remove restrictions on the media and Internet. Denying access to information creates uncertainty and further tension. Arbitrary arrests and human rights violations have equally pernicious consequences and are completely at odds with international standards and basic rule of law. Those who have been arbitrarily arrested and detained by police should be released unconditionally.

Finally, the government needs to disassociate with and disband their violent supporters and militants. The ruling party's youth wing, the Imbonerakure, is a particular cause for concern. Opposition leaders must also rein in violent elements on the protesting side.

The onus should not merely be on Burundi's government. The international community – in particular the East African community, the African Union, and the United Nations – also have an indispensable role to play in restoring peace to Burundi.

The African Union's Peace and Security Council issued a strong statement, expressing its determination to impose sanctions against those perpetuating violence, calling for the deployment of human rights monitors and requesting contingency planning for the potential deployment of a peacekeeping mission to protect civilians. These strong commitments must be followed through with action.

To deter further violence, the threat of taking “all necessary measures” against those perpetrating violence must be credible. The AU should therefore request the UN Security Council to establish a sanctions regime for Burundi. Likewise, the deployment of human rights monitors could be a key deterrent against human rights abuses, so negotiations must begin in earnest to have these monitors deployed expeditiously.

The other essential deterrent is accountability. Those who incite or commit acts of violence must know that they will be held individually accountable, regardless of their level or political affiliation. As a State Party to the International Criminal Court, those inciting or engaging in atrocity crimes in Burundi will be at risk of criminal prosecution.

No one should under-estimate what is at stake: a civil war between 1993 and 2005 cost 300,000 lives and displaced one million. Both Burundi's history and that of its neighbour, Rwanda, has shown the tragic consequences of failing to act when leaders incite or fail to contain violence. In Rwanda, over 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in a 100-day period in 1994. Beyond the possible human toll, a return to conflict would nullify the Arusha agreement and have destabilising consequences for the entire region. Without coordinated international action to de-escalation of the situation, I am fearful for the consequences.

When I proudly bore witness to the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement in 2000, I shared the hopes of all Burundi that it would be preserved as the country's foundation for peace. At this pivotal moment in Burundi's history, I appeal to all parties to commit to meaningful dialogue for the preservation of peace in Burundi and the region as a whole.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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