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Burundi Resolution at the United Nations
Burundi Resolution at the United Nations

The violent atrocities and political impasse in Burundi that have threatened our Unitarian siblings there continue to be of great concern to the international community. On July 29, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution, UN Security Council Resolution 2303, requesting that the Secretary-General establish a police component to monitor the security situation in Burundi. In her remarks explaining the US’s vote to support the Resolution, Ambassador Samantha Power, US Permanent Representative to the United Nations, expressed disappointment on behalf of the US that this resolution does not do more to protect the people of Burundi.

A leader of the Unitarian Church of Burundi, asked for Ambassador Power’s very important and potent remarks to be shared, to help Unitarian Universalists understand the situation facing Burundi.

Since its beginning, the crisis in Burundi has had direct effects on members of the Unitarian Church of Burundi (l’Assemblée Unitarien Chrétien de Burundi) and their friends and families in Bujumbura and the surrounding areas. It has been nearly a year and a half since this situation emerged – stemming from political maneuvering by the Burundian president Pierre Nkurunziza who aimed to extend his term in power. “During this period… some 270,000 people have been displaced; at least 348 people have reportedly been the victims of extrajudicial killings; and 651 reported cases of torture have been documented. These are just the crimes that we know about.”

The resolution was adopted with 11 votes in favor, none against, and four abstentions (Angola, China, Egypt, and Venezuela). The lack of consensus, especially from the African states, was distressing to Ambassador Power, who affirmed “as somebody who’s looked at the issue of mass atrocities over many years and studied it on many continents – we worry that our inability to unite even on this sends precisely the wrong message to parties that already feel a great sense of impunity.” In mid-2015, the African Union authorized 200 human rights and military observers to monitor the situation, but their deployment was delayed extensively by the Government of Burundi. To date, only 36 of the 200 have actually been deployed, still unable to exercise their AU mandate due to obstruction from Burundi. The Burundi government also has rejected the 5,000-strong peacekeeping force that the AU also authorized. Throughout the process, the Government of Burundi has been entirely uncooperative with efforts by the international community to work with them to establish peace and build a way forward.

Implementation of Resolution 2303 will require that the UN work collaboratively with the government in order for anything to be achieved.  Ambassador Power expressed support for action, but a lack of optimism in the success of the adopted Resolution: “Today was an occasion that we could have sent a clear, unified message to the Government of Burundi that we will not allow similar tactics to delay the police deployment authorized today, and that continued obstruction of the AU mission must stop.”

Ambassador Power noted: “we should not harbor any illusions that this will fix Burundi’s problems. It will only, at best, observe those problems. Police are not being deployed to protect civilians, even though civilians are in dire need of protection. That should embarrass us. Instead police are effectively being asked to be human rights monitors. That is the most that we as a Council were able to agree upon – and we couldn’t even secure consensus on this.”

As we stand in solidarity with our UU siblings in Burundi and those who have fled the country, we hold them in our hearts and pray for peace to be achieved in the near future. We also hold in our hopes the commitment of the Representative of New Zealand, who stressed that this resolution is not the end of the process but a small milestone in efforts by the Security Council to restore peace and stability in Burundi.

Watch the live stream of the Security Council's meeting on Burundi on UN Web TV.

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