Special Envoys for Great Lakes Region concerned about political restrictions in Burundi

3 Jun 2014

Special Envoys for Great Lakes Region concerned about political restrictions in Burundi

3 June 2014 – United Nations Secretary-General, African Union, European Union and United States Special Envoys to the Great Lakes Region on Monday expressed concern about the constraints on political space and civil liberties in Burundi which hinder the efforts of the opposition, civil society, and the media, in the lead up to elections in 2015.

"Burundi has made commendable progress in overcoming a history of conflict, but that progress risks being lost if action is taken to undermine the electoral process and prevent the full participation of all stakeholders", reads part of a statement issued Monday in Bujumbura.

The document was issued following the visit to Burundi of Special Envoy of the Secretary-General to the Great Lakes Region Mary Robinson, U.S. Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Russ Feingold, Special Representative of the African Union for Burundi and the Great Lakes Region Boubacar Diarra, and European Union Senior Coordinator for the Great Lakes Region Koen Vervaeke.

During their visit, the Envoys met with Pierre Nkurunziza, President of Burundi, and with government representatives, leaders from the ruling party and opposition parties, and civil society about the political and security situation in the country.

"An election is more than a day; it is a process. Only if the electoral process is inclusive, transparent, and peaceful, can the election itself be considered free, fair and credible. In the run-up to elections, media and civil society must be free to speak up and report upon the entire electoral process. All political parties and actors must have an equal opportunity to participate in the process, including meeting at any time and as often as necessary to prepare for peaceful elections. Any effort to prevent meetings, intimidate participants, or undermine the opposition jeopardizes the process and runs counter to the Burundian government's expressed commitment to democracy", the Envoys stated as they urged all parties to renounce violence and to call upon their members to exercise restraint and peaceful expression.

The Envoys also welcomed the adoption by consensus of the new Electoral Law and the agreement in principle by the Burundian political parties and actors to adopt a code of conduct for the elections. "This election has the potential to build on Burundi's recent progress and contribute to a stronger future", the document states as it encourage the Government of Burundi and all stakeholders "to seize this opportunity to bring about a better future for their country through a transparent, inclusive, peaceful, and credible electoral process."

The Envoys took part this past weekend in the Children's Forum of Hope held in Bujumbura, a venue set up to empower the youth of the Great Lakes region and to ensure the inclusion of their voices in the Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework process.