Ambassador Kelly Craft
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
October 30, 2019
Thank you, Madame President.
Special Envoy Kafando, thank you for your two-and-a-half years of service promoting peace and stability in Burundi. Your office has played an important role in working to stabilize Burundi and foster political dialogue, and we look forward to working with your successor to support Burundi through credible elections and peaceful transfer of power. Ambassador Lauber, thank you, I appreciate your briefing and your encouragement to continue the dialogue.
This Council is charged with maintaining international peace and security, but in so many cases, what that really means is investing in the conditions that ultimately produce human flourishing. Simply put, it means investing in the futures of countries and their people. And Madame President, the May 2020 elections are the key to Burundi’s future. It is critical, then, as France and Switzerland and Madame President you have said, that they be inclusive, free, and fair. Women and young adults, opposition and ruling party leaders, civil society representatives, journalists, prominent political activists, and refugees displaced by political violence all have an equal role to play.
We welcome the recent remarks from President Nkurunziza’s affirming his commitment to peaceful elections and encourage the government to take tangible steps towards this goal. One of those steps is to allow international and domestic election observers unfettered access to the election process. An open and permissive political environment is also critical to credible elections. Political candidates from all parties should be free to campaign without threat of reprisal or interference.
We are concerned by repeated attacks and harassment targeting members of opposition parties and reports of politically motivated violence and intimidation. For example, the recent destruction of the regional political offices of the National Congress for Freedom party will only serve to repress opposition voices and undermine free expression. And the extrajudicial arrests, beatings, intimidation and kidnappings that have been reported are unacceptable in a free society.
We call on all political parties and their supporters to campaign peacefully and reject violence. These convictions proceed from our broader belief that basic civic freedoms are essential to democracy. We urge the Burundian government to respect Burundi’s international legal obligations regarding rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and free association. Journalists, activists, and civil society organizations must be allowed to operate independently, free from threats of intimidation and violence. And all Burundian citizens should be free to participate fully and actively in the electoral process.
Madame President, the voluntary return of Burundian refugees also remains a top priority for the future stability of the country and the region. These citizens are an integral part of Burundi’s national fabric, and their active participation in political and civic life is needed now more than ever. We urge the Governments of Burundi and Tanzania to work closely with UNHCR, regional countries, and international NGOs to facilitate the voluntary, dignified, and safe repatriation of Burundian nationals, without threat or harassment.
While the United States urges Burundi to make needed investments in its own future, we are investing in that future as well. Every year, we contribute more than $50 million in bilateral aid, which touches the lives of nearly every Burundian citizen by supporting the health sector, economic growth, and peacebuilding. We also partner with the UN Food Program, UNHCR, and UNICEF to provide emergency assistance to Burundian and Congolese refugees, including children.
We are encouraged by the remarkable progress that Burundian authorities have made in the fight against HIV/AIDS. While there’s still work to be done on malaria and Ebola preparedness, significant strides have been taken, and we encourage the government of Burundi to continue these efforts.
My fellow Council members, developments in Burundi directly affect the entire Great Lakes region. This means that improving Burundi’s human rights situation and holding free, fair, and inclusive elections will brighten not only the future of Burundi, but of all of Central and East Africa. The United States will continue to invest in this better future, and we urge all member states to do the same.