COMPLETE PEACE IN BURUNDI REQUIRES FULL SUPPORT OF INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY, DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL
NEW YORK, 4 December (UN Headquarters) -- Regional efforts had achieved much progress in Burundi, but a complete peace could not be achieved without the full support of the international community, Jacob Zuma, Deputy President of South Africa, told the Security Council this afternoon as it met to consider the situation in that country.
In his briefing this afternoon, Mr. Zuma described the recent ceasefire agreement between the Government of Burundi and one of the two main rebel forces in the country, the Forces for the Defence of Democracy (FDD). The agreement would come into force on 30 December 2002, after a period allowing communication of the ceasefire to the forces on the ground and the establishment of implementation structures.
The agreement, he said, also provided for the establishment of an African mission to control and verify the ceasefire. Outstanding issues then had to be discussed, such as the return to legitimacy, the welfare of combatants, good governance and reconciliation.
The implementation process was a difficult one that required the strong support of the international community, he said. He realized the problem of deploying a mission without a ceasefire that included all parties. Negotiations with the Party for the Liberation of the Hutu People-National Liberation Forces (PALIPEHUTU-FNL), the other major rebel group, were now a priority.
At the same time, however, he appealed for an understanding of the special nature of the Burundi problem. There would never be a normal, straightforward ceasefire, because there were multiple parties with different demands which had to be engaged separately. Major rebel parties had not wanted to meet in the same room.
He said that, in order to allay worries about a partial ceasefire, the current agreement provided that weapons would be taken and stored in an armoury, where they would be accessible should the need arise. One of the critical tasks of the African mission would relate to those arms. The arrangement was made because of fears of mass killing after disarmament of some of the parties, after the experience of other countries in the region.
In accomplishing their difficult tasks, the African mission and the regional actors contributing to the peace process required the full support of the United Nations, he said. He, therefore, urged the international community to invest further in peace in Burundi to eliminate conflict once and for all there.
Following Mr. Zuma's briefing, Council members welcomed the news of the ceasefire agreement and expressed appreciation for the efforts of South Africa and all others who had contributed to the peace process in Burundi. The representative of Ireland said that after nine years of conflict, the agreement was a major breakthrough. But it was now important that both sides followed up with action and brought the FDD into power-sharing arrangements. The transitional clock continued to tick, and any slippage could be damaging to the process.
It was also important, he continued, to pressure the FNL to join the process. In addition, the appalling humanitarian situation was of deep concern. The breakthrough, however, would allow for access to populations in need. In that regard, it was important that donors honoured their pledges, and it was also important for the Council and the international community to support the agreement and the wider peace process.
Answering questions raised by Council members, Mr. Zuma said the integration of the FDD, at the executive level, as well as in Parliament and the civil service, had already been raised with the Burundi’s transitional Government. It raised a new challenge, because it would mean an expansion of the Government, requiring additional resources. He was optimistic that the United Nations could help in that area.
Regarding the possibility of FNL joining the process, he said the nineteenth Heads of State Summit had called on the FNL to conclude a ceasefire agreement before 30 December. If that was not done, appropriate action would be taken, as the region was determined that the peace agreement could not be undermined by just one party among many. The bulk of FNL’s preconditions had already been addressed, among them, the issue of political prisoners. Reports that FNL had publicly welcomed the agreement with FDD were a positive sign.
Also speaking this afternoon were the representatives of Council members France, Norway, United Kingdom, China, Syria, Singapore, Guinea, Cameroon, Mauritius, United States, Bulgaria and Colombia.
The meeting, which opened at 3:50 p.m., adjourned at 5:15 p.m.
As it met this afternoon on the situation in Burundi, the Security Council had before it the report of the Secretary-General (document S/2002/1259) on developments in that country since his last report of 14 November 2001.
Among the important developments of that period, the report notes that the Implementation Monitoring Committee of the Arusha Agreement was relocated to Bujumbura, Burundi, from Arusha. The Transitional National Assembly was formally installed in January 2002; it elected Jean Minani, of the Front for Democracy in Burundi (FRODEBU), as its Speaker. The Transitional Senate, meanwhile, elected Libere Bararunyeretse, of the Union for National Progress Party (UPRONA), as its President.
The report states that efforts towards an all-inclusive ceasefire agreement had intensified, under the leadership of South Africa with support from Gabon and the United Republic of Tanzania, and with the support of the United Nations and the African Union. One result was the ceasefire agreement of 7 October 2002 between the Transitional Government of Burundi and the National Council for the Defence of Democracy-Forces for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) and the Party for the Liberation of the Hutu People-National Liberation Forces (PALIPEHUTU-FNL).
The Secretary-General states that the armed groups that have so far stood aloof should negotiate a ceasefire agreement and join the peace process. The United Nations will do all it can, he says, to contribute to a comprehensive and all-inclusive agreement. Once such an agreement is reached, the Secretary-General intends to provide, to the Security Council, recommendations on the future course of action, including a possible expansion of United Nations involvement.
Meanwhile, the human rights situation in Burundi remains volatile, according to the report. The belligerents seem to increasingly target civilians, with hundreds killed in 2002. Of particularly grave concern was the classification of civilians as rebels by the military because of their presence in locations designated as conflict areas or their perceived collaboration. The civil war, in addition, has increased poverty and weakened the legal and judicial system, and has led to a breakdown of the existing social and communal infrastructure.
The Secretary-General states that the donor community should exert greater efforts to provide assistance to Burundi, urging it, in particular, to support the consolidated appeals process for humanitarian and development needs. At the same time, the parties to the conflict should facilitate safe and unhindered passage to humanitarian workers.
Regarding the role of the United Nations Office in Burundi (UNOB), the report states that the role was adjusted and refocused once the Implementation Monitoring Committee moved to Burundi. To support the Committee's work, the ceasefire negotiations and continuing political functions, the staffing and resources of UNOB have needed to be increased.
For 2003, the report points to additional needs, including a spokesperson, a protection officer for the Special Representative and eight local staff. Three military advisers and civilian police would also be attached to UNOB for contingency planning towards the possible deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping mission. Any change on the ground will, according to the report, necessitate a review of the tasks of UNOB and the resources needed to accomplish them.
JACOB ZUMA, Deputy President of South Africa, said the efforts to find peace in Burundi took place in the context of measures to establish order and sustainable development in Africa. Today’s meeting was a follow-up on the April Security Council visit to Burundi.
In the two years he had been facilitating ceasefire negotiations between the parties in Burundi, he said the conflict had become even more complex, as two factions had split into four. At the last meeting of the Council on the issue, there were many reasons to be sceptical over the peace process there. The rebels seemed reluctant to negotiate seriously; however, that was changed by a strong message from the Security Council.
Given the past difficulties, it was good to meet now in a climate of hope, after the signing of a peace agreement in the United Republic of Tanzania between the Government and the Forces for the Defence of Democracy rebel group. Hopefully, that would soon free up some of the resources pledged by the international community that had been kept in abeyance until a ceasefire was signed.
President Buyoya and rebel leaders had had three meetings already on details of implementation, such as the return of former fighters to Burundi, participation in Parliament, disarmament, demobilization and other issues. He said the agreement would come into force on 30 December 2002, after a period allowing communication of the ceasefire to the forces on the ground and the establishment of implementation structures.
The agreement, he said, also provided for the establishment of an African mission to control and verify the ceasefire. Outstanding issues then had to be discussed, such as the return to legitimacy, the welfare of the combatants after the ceasefire, good governance and reconciliation. That was part of the next chapter under the agreement.
The implementation process was, however, a difficult one, he said, that required the strong support of the international community. He realized the problem of deploying a mission without a ceasefire that included all parties. Negotiations would be pursued with the Party for the Liberation of the Hutu People-National Liberation Forces (PALIPEHUTU-FNL) soon.
He said that in order to allay worries about a partial ceasefire, the current agreement provided that weapons would be taken and stored in an armoury, where they would be accessible should the need arise. One of the critical tasks of the African mission would relate to those arms. The arrangement was made because of fears of mass killing after disarmament of some of the parties, after the experience of other countries in the region.
He appealed for an understanding of the special nature of the Burundi problem. There would never be a normal, straightforward ceasefire, because there were multiple parties with different demands which had to be engaged separately. Major rebel parties had not wanted to meet in the same room.
He referred to parts of the Charter which provided for regional participation in such peacekeeping situations. The African mission would perform many functions, but the support of the United Nations would be critical in making that mission a success.
He thanked the United Nations for its support up to this point. As the ceasefire was discussed, all parties had referred frequently to the United Nations, which meant implementation of the ceasefire would be difficult without the participation of the Organization. He also thanked all those from the United Nations and Member States who had been supporting the peace process in Burundi, as well as the African Union, which had participated actively through its Secretary-General.
Regional efforts had achieved much in Burundi, but could not achieve the full, desired results alone, he said. They required the full support of the United Nations. Other initiatives pursued recently by Africans showed that peace agreements in difficult, long-term conflicts could, indeed, be implemented through regional solutions, with adequate support from the international community. He urged that community to invest further in peace and to eliminate conflict once and for all from Burundi.
JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIERE (France) said the Arusha Agreement was an indispensable link in the Burundi peace process. The first priority was to make sure that the ceasefire became universal, and the FNL must joint the peace process. France would support the transitional efforts of Burundi to bring FNL into the agreement. Remaining rebels must be convinced that there would be benefits for cessation of hostilities. It would be up to signatories to implement their commitments. That would help the Burundi population to return to peace and security.
The donors also had an important part to play and must support the peace process in Burundi. His country was aware that no peace process had a chance of success if it lacked the means for implementation. The Council would have to reflect on the way to support an African mission once the parties had agreed to a ceasefire. The situation in Burundi must be taken into consideration within the regional context. The work under way between Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo must also involve military cooperation along the borders, for instance. The signing of the ceasefire agreement would make it possible to achieve further progress on political issues.
WEGGER CHRISTIAN STRØMMEN (Norway) welcomed the ceasefire agreement, which was significant but far from sufficient to achieve peace. Agreement must now be followed through in all aspects, including through army reform and integration of demobilized soldiers. He expressed concern that the FNL still was outside the ceasefire agreement. The international community must do its utmost to contribute to the peace process. Given the character of the situation, no feasible measures must be left untried.
ALISTAIR HARRISON (United Kingdom) also welcomed the ceasefire agreement, but said it was important to implement it and continue negotiations to include the FNL. He asked, among other things, how integration of the FDD into the political framework would work in practice and how it would affect the second phase of the transitional process in May 2003. He also asked how FDD forces operating outside Burundi would be included in the process.
WANG YINGFAN (China) supported the South African efforts to achieve peace and stability in Burundi. The ceasefire agreement was key to the peace process. It was a complicated matter. He asked what the Council could do to advance the peace process in Burundi.
FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) thanked Mr. Zuma for the message of peace. He welcomed the signing of the agreement between Burundi transitional government and the FDD. He supported the proposal on the role of the Council and reaffirmed the importance of the role of the donor countries in that.
GERARD CORR (Ireland) said it was important that both sides followed up with actions and to keep pressure on parties to bring the FDD into power-sharing arrangements. The transitional clock continued to tick, and any slippage could be damaging to the process. It was also important to pressure the FNL to join the process. After nine years of conflict, the agreement was a major breakthrough. The appalling humanitarian situation was of deep concern; the breakthrough, however, would allow for access to populations in need. In that regard, it was important that donors honoured their pledges, and it was also important for the Council and the international community to support the agreement and the wider peace process.
CHRISTINE LEE (Singapore) said that today’s briefing confirmed optimism about the recent ceasefire agreement. Would Mr. Zuma have any suggestions about how the Council could help in the upcoming transfer of the presidency in Burundi?
MAMADY TRAORE (Guinea) thanked all the facilitators of the agreement, which was a significant step towards an overall ceasefire in Burundi. He appealed to the other parties to come to the negotiating table to put an end to the suffering in the country. He appealed also to the signatories to implement the agreement and to donors to continue their support to the peace process. He pledged his country’s continued support to those facilitating that process.
IYA TIDJANI (Cameroon) welcomed the positive developments in Burundi and thanked all those that had contributed to them. He endorsed appeals to the international community to support the return of peace and stability in the country. Particularly important was the trust exhibited by all the belligerents in Burundi. That trust should not be disappointed. He asked what the possibilities of bringing other rebel parties into the peace process were, and what roles were expected of the United Nations and the international community in supporting the ceasefire agreement.
KHEMRAJ JINGREE (Mauritius) thanked South Africa for its contributions to the peace process and said he hoped that the FNL joined the process before the end of the year. The Burundian population had not seen a real dividend for peace, and he appealed to the international community to alleviate their situation. He assured Mr. Zuma of his country’s full support in his efforts towards peace in Burundi.
RICHARD S. WILLIAMSON (United States) said the signing of the ceasefire agreement was a significant step towards achieving peace in Burundi, and he expressed appreciation for the efforts of Mr. Zuma and the regional initiative. Despite the agreement, the situation in Burundi still warranted close monitoring by the Council. He was concerned that the FNL continued its campaign of violence and remained outside the Arusha process. The leaders of the armed groups outside the peace process must face consequences, and he said he supported sanctions in that regard.
STEFAN TAFROV (Bulgaria) welcomed the ceasefire agreement signed on 2 December as a positive development, but nothing had been solidly achieved yet. A comprehensive ceasefire was crucial. The FNL must join in peace negotiations, as must other smaller groups. In that regard, he asked what the chance was for those groups to join the ceasefire agreement.
The President of the Council, ALFONSO VALDIVIESO (Colombia), speaking in his national capacity, said although a ceasefire agreement had been reached between the Government and the rebel group of FDD, there were still many obstacles in the path of peace. Economic reconstruction of the country was essential. He asked for more information on the proposed African mission, including its make-up and whether it would include countries outside Africa. He also asked about the relationship between that mission and a possible United Nations mission. He further inquired after the FNL views and what kind of sanctions could be imposed by members of the regional initiative.
Answering questions of Council members, the Deputy President of South Africa, Mr. ZUMA, said the issue of integrating the CNDD-FDD in the transitional government institutions had been raised with the Burundi’s transitional Government. The CNCC-FDD had to participate at the executive level, as well as in Parliament, and had to be represented among civil servants. That raised a new challenge, because to include the present groups would mean an expansion of the Government, which required additional resources. Details about participation had to be worked out. For peace, all parties had to participate. He was optimistic that it would not be difficult for the United Nations to help in that area.
Details regarding army reform would be worked out by the Army and the Joint Commission. The Joint Commission would also work out details on the return of those CNDD-FDD members who were outside the country. Support would be needed in their transport.
Regarding possibilities of the FNL to join the process, he said the nineteenth Heads of State Summit had called on the FNL to conclude a ceasefire agreement before 30 December. If that was not done, appropriate action would be taken, as the region was determined that the peace agreement could not be undermined by just one party among many. He had started communicating with the FNL. The bulk of FNL’s preconditions had already been addressed, among them, the issue of political prisoners. Reports that FNL had publicly welcomed the agreement with FDD were a positive sign.
Answering questions on what the Council and the United Nations could do to help, he said the Council was more experienced in those matters. The agreement was not a classic one, and there were still combatants coming into the assembly points with their arms. The African mission intended to deal with that situation.
There was a need for a "bridging mechanism" to create a situation for the United Nations to come in, and the Council could help in that regard, for instance, by providing support for airlifting those forces to the assembly points. Support was also needed to feed the combatants at the assembly points. Support for the process of integration of ex-rebel groups into the transitional government institutions was also needed, as was technical support for implementation of the agreement.
Among other ways the United Nations could help would be to assist in getting pledged funds released, now that a partial ceasefire had been reached.
He finished by expressing his gratitude for the support of the Security Council. He pledged further commitment of his Government to deal with the problems of the African continent and said the strong support of the Council encouraged those efforts.
* *** *