Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you to all of the briefers for your remarks. The United States is disappointed by the lack of progress since the East African Community (EAC) Heads-of-State Summit on February 1. It does not appear that any steps have been taken by regional leadership since this Council’s last meeting on Burundi in February, even though Burundians continue to flee the country under political pressure.
UNHCR reports that, although 8,253 Burundian refugees were assisted to return voluntarily from January to April of this year, during that same time period another 2,569 people fled Burundi for the first time.
With this continuing displacement in mind, we call upon the EAC to reinvigorate talks. It is important that all parties commit to the EAC-led process and reach an agreement ahead of the 2020 elections.
Civic and political space are critical to free and fair elections. Unfortunately, continued reports of human rights violations cast a shadow over Burundi and its electoral preparations. Extrajudicial arrests, beatings, intimidation and kidnappings, especially by the Imbonerakure ruling party youth wing, pose a grave threat to the country’s peace and security.
Mr. President, a free press is indispensable for democracy. We urge the Burundian government to respect freedom of expression and to allow journalists to operate independently without fear of violence or a forcible shutdown because of their reporting.
We also urge the Government of Burundi to address persistent and reliable reports of illicit arms transfers, combatant recruitment, and armed group activity in eastern DRC that are tied to Burundi. Now is the time for all of the parties to the 2013 Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework to live up to their commitments of non-interference in the internal affairs of neighboring countries and to deny support or safe harbor to armed groups.
The Great Lakes region has a chance to transform into an interconnected hub of peace and prosperity. By resolving its domestic political crisis and strengthening its respect for human rights, Burundi could play a central role in that effort.
Finally, Mr. President, we note our continuing support for Resolution 2303, in which this Council requested that the Secretary-General report on the situation in Burundi every three months. We are concerned by the UN’s failure to submit timely reports as requested by this Council.
Thank you, Mr. President.