from Africa in Transition

UN Passes Burundi Resolution

November 12, 2015

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The UN Security Council has adopted a resolution condemning killings and torture occurring in Burundi. The French-introduced resolution, sounds the alarm about the widespread bloodshed and potential for genocide in the central African nation.

The resolution gained support from the UN Under Secretary General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman (an American), who reported to the Security Council, inter alia, on violence occurring in the Burundi capital of Bujumbura, specifically in neighborhoods that did not vote for incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza. UN High Commissioner for Human rights Prince Zaid bin Ra’ad (a Jordanian and former ambassador to the United States) has expressed deep concern about the “increasingly grave human rights crisis” in Burundi: “At least 240 people have been killed since protests began in April, with bodies dumped on the streets on an almost nightly basis.” The UN Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, Amama Dieng (Senegal) called on the Burundi government to restore dialogue and de-escalate the crisis. He stressed that the international community, especially the African Union, the East African community, and the UN have an indispensable role. The mandate of the UN Electoral Observation Mission in Burundi is ending, and the UN office in Burundi closed in 2014 at the request of the Nkurunziza government. It is expected that the UN Secretary General will appoint a special advisor to coordinate UN efforts in Burundi.

The resolution calls on all sides “to reject any kind of violence.” The French Deputy Permanent Representative said, “We are extremely worried by what we are seeing in Burundi at this moment: this increase of political violence and the extremely alarming ethnically-based hate speech.”

Observers are looking over their shoulders at the Rwanda genocide twenty-one years ago. The British Permanent Representative made the point explicitly: “We remember what happened in that region, in neighboring Rwanda 21 years ago. We must not let history repeat itself.” The head of the UN’s human rights office in Central and West Africa, Scott Campbell, even commented that the UN is less equipped to deal with violence in Burundi than it was in Rwanda.

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