Remarks at a UN Security Council Meeting on Burundi

Ambassador Jonathan Cohen
U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
November 21, 2018



Thank you, Mr. President. Special Envoy Kafando and Ambassador Lauber, thank you very much for your briefings. We deeply appreciate the Secretary-General’s November 14 report on the situation in Burundi, submitted pursuant to Resolution 2303, and we look forward to the next written report.

Mr. President, the United States is disappointed, as are so many others, that the Government of Burundi did not participate in the fifth round of the EAC’s Inter-Burundi Dialogue in October. Among the reasons cited for their absence, the government said they were unable to attend due to a period of national mourning to remember fallen national heroes Prince Rwagasore and President Ndadaye.

For our part, we can think of no better way to honor their memory than by seeking to bridge Burundi’s political divides and put the country on the path to peace and sustainable development. In their own way and in their own time, both of these men attempted to promote mutual understanding leading to independence, peace, and development, and inspiring millions of Burundians, giving us all hope for Burundi’s future.

We welcome the efforts of EAC dialogue facilitator and former President Benjamin Mkapa to seek consensus on a roadmap to election in 2020. We encourage the Government of Burundi and the opposition parties to renew their commitment to the Dialogue to reach consensus on such a roadmap. In the aftermath of the fifth round of the dialogue, we also encourage regional leaders to send a clear signal of their continued engagement and support for peaceful, free, fair, and credible elections in 2020.

The situation in Burundi has undermined the significant gains achieved through the Arusha Agreement. We encourage the Arusha guarantors to reinvigorate their diplomatic engagement in support of the agreement.

Additionally, we take note of the Secretary-General’s report that the UN continues to receive allegations of human rights violations and abuses. We are particularly disturbed that more than 45 bodies were discovered throughout the country in the wake of various attacks, murders, and disappearances.

We also remain deeply concerned about restrictions on civic and political space in Burundi, especially on the media and through the use of harsh prison sentences to intimidate human rights defenders. We are worried by reports of the increasing role of the ruling party’s youth wing, the Imbonerakure, in committing human rights abuses.

Mr. President, we are deeply concerned by alleged cross-border attacks by individuals or groups operating between Burundi and Rwanda. That situation remains volatile and requires this Council’s attention in the lead-up to elections.

We also remain concerned by constitutional provisions adopted this year that imposed restrictions on the opposition, and we call on the Government of Burundi to respect the rights of opposition members. At the same time, we encourage opposition political actors to commit to non-violent participation in the 2020 elections.

With that in mind, we once again renew our call for the Government of Burundi to resume cooperation with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Government of Burundi’s decision to ban three members of the UN Commission of Inquiry from accessing the country by deeming them persona non grata represents another example of a prolonged unwillingness to cooperate with the UN on human rights issues, despite the extension of the Commission’s mandate by one year.

Mr. President, the United States also remains deeply concerned by the Government of Burundi’s suspension of all international NGOs. This decision has adversely affected long-standing initiatives that aim to improve conditions for the Burundian people, including programs to prevent and treat malaria, HIV, and malnutrition.

We recognize that more than 30 NGOs have had their suspensions lifted, and we urge the Burundian government to lift all the remaining suspensions to ensure the continuation of vital services to the Burundian people.

There is significant will on this Council to work with the Government of Burundi and the region to address old wounds and to build a brighter future. Elections represent a clear opportunity for Burundi’s leaders to reset their relationship with the international community by engaging in good faith in a political process that includes all Burundians. We hope that they will seize it.

Thank you, Mr. President.