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Amid Burundi Crackdown, Qs From Some at UN, US Travel Warning

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 11, with video -- Amid protests and crackdown after Pierre Nkurunziza was nominated to run for a third term as President in seeming violation of the Arusha Peace Accord, on May 11 the UN Peacebuilding Configuration for Burundi met and sought answers from Burundi's minister by video.

  Asking questions were Swiss Permanent Representative Paul Seger and his counterparts from Belgium and Tanzania, Ambassador Manongi, as well as the UK's Deputy Permanent Representative Peter Wilson. France, the penholder on Burundi in the UN Security Council, did not send its Permanent Representative Francois Delattre nor his Deputy Alexis Lamec.

  Questions were raised about the armed youth wing, the crackdown on media, the outward flows of refugees. The responses were generally dismissive -- Wilson wondered aloud at the disparity between the Minister's denials on the youth wing and all other available information -- and on press freedom, troubling. Media is political, the minister said, justifying the crackdown.

 But what will come next? Later on May 11, the US issued a travel warning on Burundi saying among other things that "Armed groups operate in Burundi... Exchanges of gunfire and grenade attacks have increased but are usually not directed at foreigners." It's that kind of thinking that the ruling party seems to be counting on. Watch this site.

Inner City Press on May 8 asked Tanzanian President Kikwete what his country and the East African Community are trying to do. Video here.

 Kikwete, at the UN for a press conference about the High Level Panel on Global Response to Health Crises, told Inner City Press to ask him about Burundi after the press conference. Inner City Press did, specifically if the EAC will be opining on if a third term would violate the Arusha Agreements or pose regional threats.

  "Be patient," was Kikwete's response, saying that the foreign ministers who visited Burundi will report back on May 13. We will cover that at that time.

  During the press conference, Kikwete dealt with aplomb when UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq called him the "former president" of Tanzania. There were a number of "formers" (and "futures") on the panel, but Kikwete is current.

   Moments after Kikwete's and the panel's press conference, the UN Security Council issued "elements to the press" which "called upon all parties to refrain from violence and to prioritize Burundiís peace and stability through the current political dialogue and also to achieve their needs through legal and peaceful means. They stressed the need to hold a credible, transparent, inclusive and peaceful electoral process."

 Inner City Press asked the Security Council's president for May  Raimonda Murmokaite of Lithuania how the third term was discussed in the Council's closed meeting. She replied that individual members did express their views on the third term but it was not really the essence of the discussion.  We'll have more on this.

  Inner City Press has asked the UN about Burundi, most recently on May 4 and 5 and now May 6, below. Now it's said the UN's Said Djinnit will belatedly brief the Security Council on May 7 - we'll be there.

  On May 6, Inner City Press asked the UN, " I don't know if you have an update on Burundi?"

  Moments later, beyond an if-asked, a statement was handed to UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq, who answered Inner City Press with this:

"Regarding Burundi, after a plenary session yesterday, Burundian stakeholders continued the political dialogue.  Our Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region, Said Djinnit, is facilitating work in smaller committees.  The objective of the dialogue remains to seek common grounds for creating conditions for the holding of peaceful, inclusive, and credible elections in Burundi.  Meanwhile, we welcome the arrival in Bujumbura of the foreign ministers of the East African community, and we look forward to working closely with the region on this."

  The UN is relentlessly upbeat - and marginalized. Watch this site.

 On May 4, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric:

Inner City Press: On Burundi, I want to know if you have any statement on the violence in the capital in which at least two people have been killed today protesting the third-term run of the President?

Spokesman Dujurric:  Sure, we continue to follow the events in Burundi with great concern and deplore the loss of lives and injuries as well as the destruction of property that we've seen.  We reiterate our calls to all the parties to reject violence, exercise maximum restraint, and avoid using inflammatory language, as well as to take the necessary appeasement measures to create conditions for dialogue.  In this regard, the UN mission on the ground, MENUB, has been encouraging all stakeholders to seize the opportunities of the dialogue that is organized by the Ministry of Interior with the support of the UN on 5 and 6 May.  That is tomorrow and Wednesday.  And we trust that stakeholders will see and build on this dialogue as an opportunity to defuse tensions and seek common grounds for creating conditions for the holding of peaceful, inclusive, and credible elections in Burundi.

 Later on May 4, Ban Ki-moon met with Uganda's Yoweri Museveni, but no UN read-out was issued. On May 5, Inner City Press asked for this, and about the judge who fled the country amid death threats. Video here.


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