Fifteen years after the signing of a landmark Burundi peace accord, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on all the country’s political leaders, including those in exile, to find common cause and commit to build on the stability that was ushered in by the Arusha Agreement.
“Today, Burundi marks the fifteenth anniversary of the initial signing of the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement in Tanzania. This process gave birth to the first generation of Burundians with no direct experience of war since independence, said Mr. Ban in a statement issued by his spokesperson.
“Never has the spirit of Arusha been as sorely tested as in the past five months,” the statement continued, with the Secretary-General encouraging the Burundian people to reconnect with the spirit of dialogue, consensus, democracy and peaceful resolution of disputes embodied by the Arusha Agreement.
Just last week, the UN chief, noting the inauguration of Pierre Nkurunziza for his third term as President of Burundi, urged him to “pursue a path of inclusivity and reconciliation,” and reiterated his call on all Burundian stakeholders to undertake a broad and transparent political dialogue.
In the statement issued today, Mr. Ban called on all leaders from across the political spectrum to show the courage and vision to resume dialogue with their rivals and look beyond their political differences.
“No matter how great these differences may seem, they are smaller than the price of returning to violence,” he declared.
The Secretary-General recalled that a month after the signing of the Arusha Agreement, the Facilitator of the Burundi peace process, the late President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, told the UN Security Council: "Burundi stands at the threshold of a completely new chapter in its history. That history will judge very harshly those that deliberately choose to obstruct the road to peace and progress.”
Echoing that message, Mr. Ban expressed the hope that all Burundian political leaders, including those in exile, could find common ground and demonstrate their commitment to consolidate peace and stability that the Arusha Agreement brought the country.
Burundi has been in the grips of a political crisis since late April, when Mr. Nkurunziza was put on the ballot for a controversial third term. Tensions intensified when he won the July 21 election. More than 100,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries in the weeks ahead of and following the polls.
Tensions remain high – just two weeks ago, the UN human rights office warned that the situation is spiralling out of control amid a spate of deadly election related violence – and Mr. Ban has repeatedly appealed for an end to politically – motivated violence and urged all Burundians to peacefully settle their differences without delay.
During a phone call with Mr. Nkurunziza on 6 August, the Secretary-General urged him to resume the political dialogue, which had been suspended since 19 July. He also encouraged the Burundian authorities to work closely with the Ugandan-led facilitation on behalf of the East African Community.