The Security Council today set up a “significantly scaled-down” United Nations operation in Burundi to help the Central African country as it embarks on the latest stage of its recovery from decades of civil war and ethnic fighting.
In a unanimously adopted resolution, the 15-member body mandated the new UN Office in Burundi (BNUB) to run for an initial 12-month period, starting on 1 January 2011, to support the Government in strengthening the independence, capacities and legal frameworks of key national institutions, in particular the judiciary and parliament; promoting dialogue between national actors; fighting impunity and protecting human rights.
The new office is the latest in a series of UN operations in a country where hundreds of thousands of people perished in largely ethnic fighting between Hutus and Tutsis even before it gained independence from Belgium in 1962. It will replace the current UN Integrated Office in Burundi (BINUB) in accordance with recommendations in Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s latest report on the operation there.
In its resolution, the Council urged the Government – with the support of BNUB and other international partners – to redouble its efforts to reform the security sector and political, economic and administrative governance, tackle corruption, and promote human rights by swiftly establishing a National Independent Human Rights Commission.
It welcomed the progress that Burundi has made towards peace, stability and development but noted with “great concern” reports of continuing human rights violations, in particular extra-judicial killings and torture, and restrictions on civil liberties such as the freedom of expression, association and assembly of opposition parties and civil society organizations.
In his report, Mr. Ban noted that despite significant progress in moving away from its violent past, security, food, human rights and sexual violence remain matters of concern. “I am deeply concerned about signs of a returning climate of impunity, the resurgence of acts of torture, intimidation, extrajudicial executions and arrests of opposition members, as well as restrictions on the freedom of expression and assembly,” he wrote.
In recommending the new office, the Secretary-General pointed out that the scaling down of the former UN Operation in Burundi (ONUB) to BINUB in 2006 created significant tension among national staff, with one group of former staff members still demanding reparations for various reasons, including wrongful dismissal, staging demonstrations, destroying UN property and threatening to kidnap UN staff. He urged the Government of Burundi to work closely with the United Nations to assist BINUB national staff in their transition to either the public or the private sector in order to reduce the risk of a similar reaction to BINUB’s closure.
Burundi 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. The Council today also welcomed that body’s continued role.