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On Burundi, US Says 3d Term Violates Arusha, No Consensus in UNSC

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 29 -- Amid the crackdown after  Pierre Nkurunziza was "nominated to run" for a third term as President, the UN Security Council belatedly met on April 29.

 Afterward Inner City Press asked the Deputy Permanent Representative of Jordan, the month's Security Council president, if there was consensus in the Council that a third term would violate the Arusha Accords. No, he told Inner City Press.

 (An emergency session on Burundi by the UN Peacebuilding Configuration took place at the same time; its outcome is not clear.  When Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq when UN envoy Said Djinnit would answer Press questions, no time was set.)

 Now US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power has issued this:

"The United States condemns the ongoing political violence taking place in Burundi and the government’s crackdown on media, civil society, and the political opposition this week, including reports today that the government has taken steps to restrict access to the internet and social media. These actions – and those we have seen over the past year – point to a country that has made great progress but sadly is now moving in the wrong direction.  Today we see a Burundi seized by fear and at severe risk of deadly violence.  But today we also see a Burundi that still has the time and means to correct course and get back on the path of progress.
We deeply regret the decision by the ruling party to nominate President Nkurunziza for a third term in violation of the Arusha Agreement. President Nkurunziza himself has been consistently dismissive of the risks inherent in his privileging his preservation of power over the critical need to respect the terms of the Arusha compact. Burundi’s leaders must end their complacency and now find ways to avoid violence and decide on how best to ensure elections are peaceful, credible and transparent. The actions the Burundian government has taken this week undermine this goal.
We call on the government to open a dialogue with members of the opposition and civil society on steps to ensure a credible and inclusive electoral process. We call on the Burundian government to respect the rights of its citizens to gather peacefully, to allow political parties and candidates to campaign, and to ensure an open and transparent debate in which diverse views can be aired. This extends to media and its right to report freely on the election process without fear of intimidation, censorship or arrest. We are deeply troubled by the arrest of hundreds of protesters and civil society leaders, and the shuttering of independent media outlets. These arrests and harassment of peaceful protesters and the media must stop. We call on the government to grant UN human rights staff access to hospitals and prisons to ensure the needs of those injured and detained are being addressed and their rights respected. We also call on the opposition to participate constructively in the democratic process and to shun violence.

We reiterate our intention to hold accountable anyone on any side of Burundi’s political debate responsible for fomenting violence. The United States is monitoring the situation closely and will take targeted measures, including by denying U.S. visas, to hold accountable those individuals who participate in, plan, or order violence against the civilian population.

The UN Security Council also met today to discuss the deteriorating situation in Burundi and heard disturbing reports about developments on the ground. These include the unconfirmed deaths of two people, close to three hundred arrested, and 22,000 refugees flowing into neighboring countries. Council members expressed deep concern regarding the escalation of violence and political tension in the country as well as the restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly. Earlier this month, the Council also expressed its determination to consider action against those who actively facilitate violence, including by distributing weapons to youth groups.

President Nkurunziza and the people of Burundi still have an opportunity to choose peace and to choose progress. Burundi’s leaders must recognize the valuable role that any political opposition, civil society, and media play in a healthy, open and inclusive democracy and must make space for their constructive participation."

By the end of April 27 the UN of Ban Ki-moon had said nothing.

So on April 27 Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq, and got in response an "if-asked." Transcript here
 and see below.

Update: On April 28, Inner City Press asked the month's UN Security Council president, Dina Kawar of Jordan, to confirm that Burundi would be taken up by the Council on April 29. Yes, she said, we may have a Burundi AOB (Any Other Business - that is, added item for Security Council consultations.)

 Now belatedly Ban Ki-moon has issued this statement:

"The Secretary-General condemns the outbreak of violence in Burundi following the nomination of President Pierre Nkurunziza as the presidential candidate of the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy–Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) party. He calls on the Burundian authorities to conduct a prompt investigation into the deaths that occurred during the recent demonstrations so that those responsible are held accountable.

The Secretary-General has dispatched his Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region, Said Djinnit to Burundi for consultations with President Nkurunziza and other Government authorities, political party leaders and members of the diplomatic community. He calls on the Burundian authorities to uphold the human rights of all Burundians, including the freedom of assembly, association and expression. He calls on the security services to remain impartial and exercise restraint in responding to public demonstrations. He urges all parties to reject violence and avoid using inflammatory language or hate speech that could further increase tensions.

The Secretary-General appeals to Burundians to safeguard the hard won gains made in consolidating peace and democracy and urges them to resolve their differences through dialogue. He reiterates the commitment of the United Nations to support peaceful, credible and inclusive elections."

  From the UN's April 27 transcript:

Inner City Press:  On Burundi, over the weekend, the ruling party nominated the current president for a third… to run for a third term.  And there have been crackdowns by the police, the closure of a radio station, Radio Public Africaine, and others… I'm wondering other countries have spoken.  What is the UN's response to what's happened?

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  Yeah, we're following the situation in Burundi very closely and we're deeply concerned over the violence over the weekend, including of a number of deaths following the announcement that the president would seek a third term and we urge a swift investigation into the violence.  Said Djinnit, the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes is in Bujumbura to convey the UN’s concerns and work with all parties on defusing tensions.

  Perhaps as Ban does more and more, he will "outsource" the rest of the UN's reaction to Geneva, while he for example cavorts with those who, like in Burundi, go after independent journalists.

  In Burundi, the RPA was raided and told to stop live-streaming the crackdown.

 Where is the UN Security Council, and its "pen-holder" on Burundi, on this?

  Ban's office has yet to confirm getting a letter from civil society in Burundi, below, just as it hasn't confirmed a letter from parties in Yemen Inner City Press asked about on April 24. Perhaps both are "lost in the mail" on the 38th floor.


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