The Security Council today called on the international community to support the preparation of elections in Burundi next year after the top United Nations official in the small Central African country warned that a lack of funding was challenging the “significant advances” already made after decades of ethnic and factional war.
“An amount of $3 million still need to be urgently mobilized before the end of December to help the National Independent Electoral Commission to attend to the most pressing tasks under its mandate,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Executive Representative Youssef Mahmoud told the 15-member body, stressing that pledges so far made had yet to be disbursed in good time.
He said the UN Integrated Office in Burundi (BINUB) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) were also looking, as a matter of urgency, into practical ways to help potential voters who could not afford the administrative costs of acquiring a national identity card.
“Overall, Burundi is making commendable progress despite the remaining challenges that afflict countries emerging from conflict,” he added, formally presenting Mr. Ban’s latest report to the Council, in which the Secretary-General notes that while the country has witnessed significant progress in recent months, it needs help both to ensure successful elections in 2010 and to tackle challenges such as human rights abuses, corruption and weak institutions.
Following the briefing, the Council issued a press statement endorsing the call for international support for holding “peaceful, free and fair” elections, and promoting the socio-economic recovery of communities and the return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees.
Mr. Mahmoud said BINUB was exploring with regional organizations both in Africa and outside Burundi’s request for long-term observers who would arrive a few months before the elections and stay for several weeks after.
In his report Mr. Ban said he remained concerned about reports of restrictions to the freedom of assembly and expression of opposition parties imposed by local authorities, and of militant activities of youth groups allegedly associated with certain political parties that were generating fear and suspicion.
Mr. Mahmoud said President Pierre Nkurunziza and the Interior Ministry last month urged political leaders to put an end to “these potentially destabilizing practices. While these statements seem to be heeded, the situation bears continuous scrutiny by the Minister of the Interior, all political parties and civil society organizations,” he added.
Burundian Foreign Minister Augustin Nsanze welcomed Mr. Ban’s recognition of progress made towards the sustainable stabilization of the country, but he took issue with a number of items in the report based on “gratuitous assertions and incomplete information.” These included security, which he said was no worse than in other countries, where murders took place on an hourly basis.
Moreover, violence due to payback, land disputes and looting was being addressed by disarming the civilian population, and he also disputed comments on the rule of law, human rights and the situation of women and children.
All those issues were being addressed, he said, adding that National Human Rights Council was being established, sexual violence was being repressed through legislative measures. Condemning other “irregularities and errors” in the report, he stressed that BINUB’s future mandate should be limited to electoral aid, support for democratic governance, continuing peacebuilding, and the promotion of awareness of the gender dimension in all those areas.