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On Burundi, UNSC Friday Night Statement Talks Youth Groups, Enough?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 17 -- When you go to the UN's 38th floor these days, you might meet a government official who justified the killing of unarmed civilians, having a photo op with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

 So it was on April 14, when Burundi's Minister of the Interior Edouard Nduwimana held a meeting with Ban, his chief of staff and Department of Political Affairs officials. Inner City Press went to the photo op and tweeted out a photo.

 After that, the UN Security Council held closed door consultations on Burundi, after which no Council member spoke on UNTV. UN briefers spoke to Inner City Press off-camera. And now, past 8 pm on Friday ("garbage time"), this from UNSC:

"The members of the Security Council met on April 16 to discuss the situation in Burundi. They took note that the upcoming elections are an extremely sensitive issue that has the potential to spur violence and undermine the peace sustained for almost a decade in Burundi, in the spirit of the Arusha Agreement. The Security Council called on all parties to prioritize the preservation of Burundi’s fragile and hard-won peace. They welcomed the recent engagement by UN Secretary-General Ban, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, President Kikwete, AU Chairperson Dlamini-Zuma, the United Nations Electoral Mission in Burundi (MENUB), the Burundi configuration of the Peace Building Commission, with Burundian authorities.

The members of the Security Council took note of the 15 April statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein expressing concern at the rising tensions and calling for the government and security forces to clamp down on the Imbonerakure group, for the opposition and its affiliated youth groups to play a constructive and peaceful role, and for all parties not to indulge in hate speech, react violently to provocations or feed the climate of fear.

The members of the Security Council stressed the need for the government and political opposition to refrain from any acts of violence and intimidation before, during, and after elections and to actively support the conditions for a peaceful, timely, credible and inclusive elections process. In this regard, they condemned the March 15 assassination attempt against the wife of opposition leader Agathon Rwasa. They also expressed concern with the impact of this situation on the region, including reports of increased Burundian refugee flows into Rwanda by persons who cited a fear of violence.

The members of the Security Council noted their intention to follow closely and to respond to any actions in Burundi that threaten the peace, security or stability of Burundi by actively facilitating violence, including by reportedly distributing weapons to youth groups.

They took note of Burundian government officials’ stated commitment to hold free, credible, peaceful and transparent elections according to the electoral calendar and called on them to make good on this commitment. They also recalled that during their March 13 visit to Burundi, many civil society organizations and members of the political opposition warned of the likelihood of elections-related violence should prudent actions not be taken or attempts to restrict political space continue and further recalled the necessity for all parties to abide by the non-violence charter of March 9, 2015.

They also called on all parties to address any elections-related concerns peacefully."

 Will that be enough to stop it? After Ban's meeting,  Inner City Press was made aware that Nduwimana in March 2013 visited the Businde hill where police had just killed nine people, mostly women and child. On video - YouTube here, from Minute 1:41 - Nduwimana told the mourners and survivors, Now you have the martyrs you wanted.

  On April 15, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric why no read-out of the meeting had been given. Dujarric said he had expected one and would try. Finally past 5 pm, more than 24 hours after the meeting, this:

"The Secretary-General met on 14 April 2015 with the Minister of Interior of Burundi, H.E. Mr. Edouard Nduwimana. The Secretary-General noted that Burundi owes its progress to the spirit of Arusha and the determination of Burundians to build a peaceful, democratic and prosperous nation. They discussed recent developments ahead of the general elections to be held between May and August this year.

"The Secretary-General expressed his concern about the rising political tensions in the country and encouraged Burundians to resolve their political differences through dialogue and without resorting to violence. He called on the Government to ensure that the security services manage potential security incidents with the utmost professionalism. He also encouraged the Government to ensure that all political actors are able to participate fully and freely in the electoral process. 'This would contribute to credible elections and reduce further tensions,' the Secretary-General said."

  Meanwhile, Dujarric would not confirm to Inner City Press that Ban has received this letter, in French, from civil society in Burundi:

Les organisations membres de la Campagne " Halte au 3ème Mandat du Président NKURUNZIZA" ont écrit une lettre au Secrétaire Général des Nations Unies et au Président du Conseil de Sécurité pour leur demander avec une grande insistance de voter une résolution sur le Burundi pour :

- Instruire à l'Armée burundaise de désarmer la milice IMBONERAKURE du Parti au Pouvoir CNDD-FDD
- Instruire l'identification et l'arrestation des chefs de la milice
- Instruire à l'Armée burundaise de désarmer toute autre personne ou groupe en possession illégale d'arme à feu

De voter une résolution décidant l'intervention militaire des Nations Unies pour empêcher la commission des crimes contre l'humanité, du nettoyage politique voire du génocide


 We'll have more on this.

  Eighty minutes before Ban's meeting with Nduwimana, he met with Amnesty International. Unlike some other rights groups who crave access, Amnesty authorized Inner City Press, when it asked, to report that the topics covered were "the Human Rights Up Front Initiative, regarding which several country situations were discussed, and the Post-2015 agenda." It is appreciated.

  While Inner City Press was asked if having a "criminal" in the UN is rare, the reality is that, for example, Sri Lanka's Shavendra Silva, named in Ban's own report on war crimes in that country, was allowed to become a UN Senior Adviser on Peacekeeping Operations, run by Herve Ladsous.

 Later on April 14, a mere 95 minutes later to be exact, Ban was to raise a champagne or Prosecco toast to the UN Censorship Alliance, which hosts Shavendra Silva's and Palitha Kohona's screening of their government's war crimes denial film, "Lies Agreed To."

  The then and now president of UNCA had been Kohona's landlord in the past. When Inner City Press in writing called this a conflict of interest, first the move was to try to get Inner City Press thown out of UNCA -- it quit and co-founded the new Free UN Coalition for Access, FUNCA -- then out of the UN as a whole. This is today's UN, and its Censorship Alliance.


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