Friday, December 12, 2008

International Development: Burundi faces threat of fresh conflict as impasse with rebels deepens

Although Burundi has made commendable advances in key areas for peace consolidation, an impasse between the Government and the last major rebel holdout is deepening and the risks of renewed confrontation are intensifying, according to a United Nations report being discussed by the Security Council today.

“I regret that, despite internal efforts and external support, the parties have not yet been able to muster the political will to overcome their differences and look to the future for the benefit of their country,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his latest report on the UN Integrated Office in Burundi (BINUB).

He recommended a 12-month extension of BINUB’s mandate to help restore peace to a country that has been torn apart by decades of ethnic conflict between Hutus and Tutsis, with hundreds of thousands killed.

Mr. Ban welcomed the end of hostilities between the Government and the rebel holdout, Palipehutu-FNL in May and the return to Bujumbura, the small Central African country’s capital, of the rebel leadership, but stressed that the parties had yet to overcome the differences blocking implementation of their 2006 Comprehensive Ceasefire Agreement.

Palipehutu-FNL’s insistence on being recognized as a political party under its current name is one of the reasons for the current impasse, “with the risk for peace and stability that this may imply,” he stated in the report.

Among other concerns, Mr. Ban cited the increasing number of arrests of members of the political opposition and representatives of civil society and the media. “I call on the authorities to allow peaceful assemblies, to desist from detaining persons for expressing their beliefs or opinions and to guarantee due process and fair judicial review for all detainees,” he said.

Human rights violations continue to be of serious concern, but he commended the Government’s recent steps towards fighting impunity, noting the conviction of suspects and the forthcoming prosecution of others involved in massacres.

He also voiced concern at the high incidence of sexual violence. “I urge the Government to spare no efforts to address this issue, including through new legislation, fighting against impunity in sexual violence cases and improving legal and social support for victims of sexual violence,” he said.

While noting that the overall security situation had registered some improvement, he added that the general population still faces widespread criminality.

Burundi was one of the first two countries, along with Sierra Leone, to receive support from the UN Peacebuilding Commission, which was established in 2005 to help post-conflict countries determine the priority areas for rebuilding out of the vast array of challenges they face.

Noting that the Commission’s engagement, along with the Peacebuilding Fund, had provided valuable support to the promotion of peace, Mr. Ban pledged that BINUB would continue to assist the Government to enact sector-wide security reforms and complete the disarmament, demobilization and sustainable reintegration of former combatants into national life.

Source: UN News Centre
Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
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