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Week After Burundi Cable on Arming Young, SC Press Statement, What Action?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 10, more here -- Twenty years after the "genocide fax" from Rwanda to the UN in New York was largely ignored, for a week there was little visible reaction to a strikingly similar cable from Burundi, about AK-47s being distributed to the youth-wing of the Hutu aligned CNDD party.

  Inner City Press on April 9 put the cable online, submitting questions about it to UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric and on April 10 online and at the Security Council stakeout to Ambassador Gerard Araud of France, pen-holder on Burundi in the Council.

   But it was US Ambassador Samantha Power who took and answered the question, telling Inner City Press that it is very troubling, that there have been fast trials of 21 young opposition figures and a threat to change the constitution and now, these reports. Video here and embedded below.

  At the April 10 noon briefing, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric who had sent Inner City Press a wan response to its April 9 questions about the cable (and about actions by one of the three addressees, Herve Ladsous of UN Peacekeeping) read out a list of contacts the UN had made.

  Inner City Press asked if the UN, whose cable it was and is, had done anything to check into the weapons given to the youth-wing: pistols in February, AK-47s since. Dujarric said he didn't understand the question and had nothing to add. Video here.

  Hours later, the UN Security Council issued a press statement, which will publish here in full since it is not yet on the Council's website:

Press statement on the situation in Burundi

The following Security Council press statement was issued today by Council President Joy Ogwu (Nigeria):

On 8 April, the members of the Security Council were briefed by UN Department of Political Affairs Under-Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman on the situation in Burundi.

The members of the Security Council expressed their concern for the political tensions in Burundi and for continued restrictions on the press and on civil liberties, including limitations on the freedoms of expression, of association and of peaceful assembly, including for members of opposition political parties, and for media and civil society organizations, especially in the run up to the 2015 elections.

They condemned any recourse to violence, and expressed their concern for the reported acts of intimidation, harassment and violence committed by youth groups in Burundi. They recalled the urgent need for the government of Burundi to address impunity, while respecting the right of due process, and for all the political parties to publicly condemn all political violence and acts of incitement to hatred or violence, in line with the Constitution of Burundi and the Arusha Agreement.

The members of the Security Council encouraged further efforts by the government of Burundi to ensure a space for all political parties and to continue to improve dialogue between all relevant actors, including civil society, with a view towards ensuring a conducive, free and open environment in the run up to the 2015 elections.

They encouraged Burundi to sustain the progress towards peace, stability and development and reiterated the need for the United Nations system and the international community, including the international financial institutions and Burundiís development partners, to maintain their support for peace consolidation and long-term development in Burundi. They welcomed Burundiís contribution and active participation to United Nations and African Union peacekeeping operations, especially in Somalia and Central African Republic.

The members of the Security Council commended the continued contribution of the United Nations Office in Burundi (BNUB) and the United Nations system to the countryís peace, security and development, and reiterated their full support to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Burundi.

They recalled the Security Council resolution 2137 (2014) and their request to the Secretary-General to keep the Council informed on the benchmarks, the implementation of the mandate of BNUB and of the resolution, and the conditions that affect such implementation, as well as on BNUBís transition to the United Nations Country Team.

    That the cable was in fact sent from the UN in Burundi to three top UN officials -- Jeffrey Feltman of the Department of Political Affairs, Herve Ladsous of UN Peacekeeping and Great Lakes envoy Mary Robinson -- was reliably confirmed. Inner City Press and the new Free UN Coalition for Access put this photo online here and here. Below, the full text of the cable is published.

  On April 9, UK Mission to the UN spokesperson Iona Thomas replied to Inner City Press that "I can confirm that Feltman raised this issue in the Council discussion on Burundi yesterday and members of the Council expressed their concern at the reports."

  UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, in response to Inner City Press' request for confirmation that Ladsous, who was France's Deputy Permanent Representative at the UN during the 1994 Rwanda genocide against the Tutsis, had received the Burundi cable merely pointed to a read-out of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's April 6 meeting with Burundi's First Vice-President of the Republic of Burundi Prosper Bazombanza.

  That UN read-out says that "the Secretary-General expressed strong concerns about reports concerning activities of Burundian youth groups and urged the relevant national authorities to investigate these reports."

  But it is the government itself that is accused of distributing pistols, uniforms and AK-47s to the "youth groups," which the UN read-out leaves unnamed. Is this "Rights Up Front"?

  US Ambassador Samantha Power traveled from Rwanda to Burundi and issued a statement that the "United States will provide $7.5 million in assistance for the Burundian electoral process" and expressing concerns, here. It did not directly mention the alleged distribution of weapons to the Imbonerukure or the cable.

  France, in the same week that it snubbed the Rwanda genocide commemoration and called any suggestion it was complicit in the 1994 killings "disgraceful," holds the pen on Burundi in the Security Council.

   That is to say, it was up to France after Feltman came and raised the memo to then pen and push for fast adoption some output: a resolution or Statement. But this did not happen -- until a week after the cable.

  Instead, when at the end of a higher profile consultation with High Commissioner on Human Rights Navi Pillay including on Syria, where France is pushing a referral to the International Criminal Court, April's Council president Joy Ogwu of Nigeria emerged to speak to the press, there were only two journalists there including Inner City Press. She mentioned Feltman's briefing, but not the cable or its contents.

  Nine hours later, Australia's Ambassador to the UN Gary Quinlan tweeted, "#UNSC discussed deteriorating situation in #Burundi for 2nd time in 2 weeks - signs of political exclusion & oppression deeply concerning."

The French Mission to the UN -- the penholder on Burundi -- was even less specific: "Under Secretary General Jeffrey Feltman has briefed #UNSC on current political tensions in #Burundi."

  So is the main difference in 20 years since the Rwanda genocide the speed of leaks and of social media?

  Other questions are pending. Here is the full text of the April 3, 2014 cable:

CONFIDENTIAL

OUTGOING CODE CABLE

TO: FELTMAN, UNATIONS, NEW YORK

INFO: LADSOUS, UNATIONS, NEW YORK

ROBINSON, O-SESG-GL, NAIROBI

FROM: [for] ONANGA-ANYANGA, BNUB, BUJUMBURA

DATE: 3 April 2014

REFERENCE: CDN-037

SUBJECT: Reports of alleged distribution of weapons to the Imbonerakure

Summary: Informs on reports of alleged distribution of weapons [to] ruling CNDD-youth wing and actions taken by BNUB.

1. "This follows my cable CND-022 of 26 February in which I informed of allegations of distribution of weapons to the ruling CNDD-FCC youth wing the "Imbonerakure."

2. Yesterday UN Chief Security Adviser (CSA) in Burundi conveyed the following message from the DSS daily sitrep:

"After information gathered from key informants, there was distribution of weapons and outfits military and police during the months of January and February for youth affiliated to the CNDD - FDD (IMBONERAKURE) party and the demobilized ex-AIMP Rumonge. An ad-hoc meeting was held in a hotel call[ed] KUKANYAMUENZA belonging to a "General de Brigade" located Nduwumunsi in Rumonge. A night training for the handling of these weapons would be located on the side of the central prison of Rumonge (KUMUREMBWE) and the surrounding population would have heard gunfire. These same activities (distribution of weapons) would be considered to take place in the commune of Nyzana-Laca, Kibago and Mabanda in Makamba province. Another face which tends to confirm the news, these are the statements of people who participated in these meetings but refused to receive weapons.

Two generals originating in the province of BURURI ex-AIMP whose names follow: Bde General Nduwumunsi (currently Director General of former Combatants) and General - Major Niyungeko Jevenal aka KIROHO (currently head of the Office of military Cooperation) would be supervisors of these activities (distributions of weapons and military and police uniforms). In this meeting they emphasized especially, that the beneficiaries of these weapons must remain vigilant and that when there is a trigger that each take care of their opponents in their proximity / neighbourhood."

3. I have undertaken consultations with key embassies including United States, Belgium and the Netherlands, all involved in security sector support activities, to corroborate the information and plan to raise the matter with the relevant ministers. The ambassadors informed have confirmed the grave nature of the allegations which if confirmed may have implications for bi-lateral assistance programmes.

Observations

4. CSA in Burundi confirmed the reliability of the sources.

5. The Imbonerakure actions have been on the rise since the beginning of the year and are one of the major threats to peace in Burundi and to the credibility of the 2015 elections as they are responsible for most politically motivated violence against opposition. BNUB has documented 27 cases implicating the Imbonerakure so far in 2014, 23 of which have been politically motivated.

6. The Imbonerakure act in collusion with the local authorities and with total impunity. In the country side they have replaced the law enforcing agencies and act as a militia over and above the police, the army and the judiciary. Opposition parties have repeatedly complaint [sic] about the Imbonerakure violence.

7. One can only speculate about the purpose of the distribution of weapons and uniforms in Bururi which is a traditional stronghold of the UPRONA. However the last sentence of the message indicated a highly decentralized chain of command which is consistent with reliable information on Imbonerakure modus operandi on the ground.

8. In February BNUB had informed of the disappearance of 500 uniforms from military and police installations as well as the distribution of 9mm pistols. Although not confirmed there are indications that the weapons distributed this time can be AK-47 assault rifles. DSS has also informed in the past of radio messages for the population "to be ready."

9. We will continue to closely monitor the situation and keep you informed.

Now what? Watch this site.


 

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