Hailing the efforts of a regional initiative to foster peace in Burundi, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed confidence that the Great Lakes country could hold credible elections as the group met to extend the transitional government's mandate, which was to have ended today.
"Thanks to your courageous efforts, the peace process in [Burundi] is approaching what we hope will be its final stages, despite recurring delays," Mr. Annan said in a message to the summit meeting of the Regional Initiative on Burundi read by Carolyn McAskie, his Special Representative for Burundi and Chief of the UN Operation there (UNOB).
"I now call on Burundi's leaders to take that last step towards meeting the aspirations of the Burundian people, who deserve nothing less than a democratically elected Government, committed to peace, stability and development."
According to the Secretary-General's report last month to the Security Council on Burundi, a referendum on the constitution was postponed from November to February, delaying the whole process which had been scheduled to culminate "with the indirect election of the President by Parliament on 22 April 2005."
As long as the Burundian parties continued to show political will, however, the UN would continue to support the electoral process and he was confident that "a credible electoral exercise can be completed within the short time remaining," Mr. Annan said.
As guarantors of the peace process, the Regional Initiative might wish to suggest what mechanism should replace the Implementation Monitoring Committee, whose mandate would expire, along with other transitional institutions when the new Government was elected, he said.
"My Special Representative would be pleased to share with you some thoughts on how the international community can support the newly elected Government," he said. "Together, the Regional Initiative and the United Nations can continue to support Burundi on the road to long-term peace and stability and its efforts to play a productive role in the region."