By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, November 30 -- As killings in Burundi increased, on November 12, the Security Council adopted a belated resolution on Burundi. (Inner City Press put the full text online here, and here in French.) The resolution called for the UN Secretariat to report back to the Council, on November 30.
Some time after that closed-door meeting ended, outgoing UN Security Council president Matthew Rycroft of the UK gave a short Elements to the Press summary of the meeting and then took questions, fast transcribed here.
On Burundi, the Security Council was briefed this afternoon by the Secretary General’s Special Adviser for conflict prevention, Jamal Benomar. The situation on the ground continues to be disturbing. We have heard further reports of violence, and there has been little progress on political dialogue. Mr. Benomar stressed the importance of a UN presence on the ground to support the political and security track of work. He presented us with a set of options for an enhanced UN presence, and we will consider these carefully in the coming days. Council members reiterated their concerns on the situation and expresses support for the work of the UN led by Mr Benomar. We also discussed a proposed visit to Burundi by the Security Council and the United States presidency will take that forward in the month of December.
Then, this Q&A:
ICP: On Burundi, beyond the lack of dialogue, seems like since the resolution the government closed down 10 civil society organizations and there’s reports today of neighborhoods being blockaded and searches of homes. Did this come up? In that context, is a trip enough?
And on Yemen, since there were supposed to be talks in the middle of the months and they didn’t happen, it’s now the end of the month and you’re the pen holder. Where is that process going?
Rycroft: On Burundi, no one is saying that a Security Council visit on its own would be enough to solve a problem as difficult and complex as Burundi. But those of us who support it – and actually all countries support it, the debate is about when, exactly – all of us think there should be a visit, and it should play a helpful role in shining an international spot light on Burundi and demonstrating the importance of all the parties doing everything we’ve been calling on them to do, including having dialogue about the future.
Now,the issue about the NGOs and civil society came up very quickly in consultations this afternoon. When you look at the picture of what is happening in Burundi, it is significant that there continues to be violence and oppression and civil society is by no means free. And these are worrying indicators for us, which require us to do as much preventative diplomacy as we can.
On Yemen, it’s not been a particularly prominent issue in the month of November but I think it will get more prominent in the month of December. The reason it hasn’t been prominent is that the UN’s special envoy has been preparing the ground carefully with the talks, with the backing of the SC. But the talks themselves haven’t happened yet. The latest indications is that he is hoping to begin those talks in the first week or so of December, and the Council will be keeping a very close oversight of those talks and will be having some discussion with him during the US presidency.
For a possible Council trip to Burundi, he said there is a significant minority which says December may be too soon. (Inner City Press understands this is Angola's view.)
At the November 30 UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about the blockading of the Jabe neighborhood, and Presidential Adviser Willy Nyamitwe linking the opposition to "Islamists," see below. Now indicative of the atmosphere, the US has put this warning online:
"Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Bujumbura (Burundi), Heightened Security Situation
U.S. Embassy Bujumbura has become aware that Burundian National Police searched at least two residences of U.S. citizens associated with NGOs on Saturday, November 28, 2015. Because of this, Embassy Bujumbura reissues the following information on cooperating with police in a residential search.
The Embassy recommends U.S. citizens cooperate with Burundian police if asked to enter their residence for the purpose of a search. If subject to a police search, U.S. citizens should notify the Embassy at +257-22-20-7000 or after-hours at +257-79-938-841. A legal document regulating police searches of private residences mentions the following requirements:
· Only officers of the Public Prosecutor's Office or agents of the Judicial Police are entitled to proceed with searches. An officer must identify himself with a card before entering the house.
· Before entering the house the police have to present a search warrant, signed by the appropriate authority."
Both Burundi governmental spokespeople and the UN's Department of Political Affairs put out photographs of Pierre Nkurunziza and Ban's Special Adviser Jamal Benomar smiling (some questioned, about what?)
Meanwhile, at the same time Pope Francis tried to salve real splits in the Central African Republic between the Christian anti-Balaka and the Muslim ex-Seleka, Nkurunziza's spokesperson Willy Nyamitwe equated opponents to the third term with Islamist extremists. Even some Nkurunziza supporters said this was going too far; Nkurunziza has said nothing.
Inner City Press noted it and Nyamitwe said it was wrong.
Inner City Press' question about who was referred to by the phrase, directed by an Islamist, has not been answered.
So while on the one hand Nkurunziza's government tried to project an image of cooperating with the UN system -- and today's constellation of the UN is amenable to this image, for a variety of reasons -- that same Burundian government is closing down civil society organizations and trying to equate opponents with jihadists. Watch this site.