December 10, 2010_While the outlook is good “in many regards” as Burundi turns to building a sustainable economy after elections that met the requirements of all observers, social, political and institutional challenges remain, the head of the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission’s country-specific segment warned today.
“There is a stable, newly legitimized government at work, and there is the prospect of economic integration into the East-African Community which makes Burundi part of a larger market,” Ambassador Paul Seger of Switzerland told the Security Council as it reviewed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s latest report on the Central African country.
Burundi was for decades torn apart by largely ethnic fighting between Hutus and Tutsis, in which hundreds of thousands of people died, and it was the first country, together with Sierra Leone, to be targeted by the UN Peacebuilding Commission when it was launched in 2006 to provide financial, economic and other support to prevent countries emerging from conflict from relapsing back into bloodshed.
It was in his capacity as chairman of the Commission’s country-specific meeting on Burundi that Mr. Seger laid out the challenges ahead. He cited widespread corruption and a lack of progress in justice sector reform among the institutional issues and noted that in the political domain opposition parties had boycotted elections and “taken a political leave of absence at a decisive moment.
“We condemn the use or threat of use of political violence and we deplore the loss of life that occurred over the past months,” he said, stressing the importance for all political actors to contribute constructively to the political debate.
Both Mr. Seger and the top UN envoy in Burundi, Charles Petrie, repeated the concerns Mr. Ban voiced in his report at human rights violations, including extra-judicial killings and torture.
But despite these concerns, “it is important to underscore that remarkable progress has been made in Burundi,” Mr. Petrie told the Council. “The elections have highlighted the affirmation of an independent and vocal civil society which continues to play an important role in the country.”
In his report Mr. Ban cited the holding of five consecutive elections in 2010 (communal, presidential, legislative, senatorial and local) among the progress made, even though some of these were boycotted by opposition parties, noting that for the first time since 1993, the authorities successfully took on the challenge entirely on their own.
“Despite the deep divide among political actors over the elections and the fact that a single party will dominate the political landscape for the next five years, it is remarkable that neither of those factors has led to the return of large-scale violence, as had been widely feared,” he wrote.