Opinions were sharply divided on Burundi during discussions at the United Nations Security Council on Friday, as the nation’s security status was evaluated with an eye toward 2020 presidential elections.
President Pierre Nkurunziza has said he will not run again, but his 2015 decision to force a third term and subsequent changes to the country’s constitution sparked political violence and have strained international relationships over human rights concerns.
Those human rights issues were at the heart of the Security Council discussion to keep Burundi on its agenda, with Belgium, Germany, the UK and the United States among those expressing deep concern over Burundi’s closed posture to its own political opposition and an independent media, and to those of the global community.
Jürg Lauber of Switzerland, Chairman of the Burundi Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, reminded the council that even the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), previously in Bujumbura, was closed in February at the government’s insistence.
However, Equatorial Guinea and Russia were among the nations arguing in favor of Burundi’s progress. Amparo Mele Colifa, speaking for the former, insisted that “a return to normalcy” is taking shape and Burundi is no threat to international peace and security. She cited evidence including the release of prisoners and return of refugees, Burundi’s participation in United Nations peacekeeping operations, and its election to the African Union Peace and Security Council.
“The international community has not received any alarming news from Burundi for quite a long time by now,” said Russia’s Alexander Repkin, insisting that its sovereignty be respected. South Africa said it’s important to allow for process to unfold as African nations lead on their own issues, but it’s been just two weeks since the Southern African Development Community (SADC) rejected Burundi’s membership because of continued political instability.
Image: Presidency Burundi file