South African Government position on the Burundi elections, given that the African Union will not be observing the specified elections
FOR ORAL REPLY
QUESTION NO: 227 (NO3028E)
PUBLISHED IN INTERNAL QUESTION PAPER NO.7-2015 OF 12 AUGUST 2015
MR L K B MPUMLWANA (ANC) TO ASK THE MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION:
What is the Government’s position on the Burundi elections given that the African Union will not be observing the specified elections? (NO3028E).
The recent elections in Burundi have been held under a difficult environment. As a result the East African Community (EAC) convened three Summits to which South Africa was invited as a special guest to discuss the Burundian crisis. Considering that the elections have since been held with President Nkurunziza being re-elected, what is required in Burundi is to embark on a national dialogue with a view to forming an inclusive government, put an end to violence, and a return of refugees.
We believe that the EAC-appointed facilitator on Burundi, President Museveni of Uganda, the AU and UN Special Envoys will lead in this regard and South Africa remains ready to provide diplomatic and political support to the peace process in Burundi.
South Africa, as a former mediator in the Burundian peace process that led to the signing of the historic Arusha Accords and the return of peace and democracy in Burundi, following years of devastating civil war, would want Burundi to remain peaceful and stable and South Africa will continue to play her part in search for sustainable peace, security and development in Burundi.
Parliamentary and municipal elections took place in Burundi on 29 June 2015. These elections were observed only by the UN (MENUB), since the AU and the EAC had withdrawn their electoral observer missions prior to the elections, citing that conditions were not conducive for free, and fair, transparent and credible elections.
The Election Day was preceded by a number of hand-grenade attacks, and although the opposition called for a boycott, some parties did in the end participate since their names had not been removed from the ballot. One hundred (100) members of parliament were elected, comprising 77 members of the ruling CNDD-FDD, 21 members of the Abigenga Mizero Y’Abarundi (Rwasa) and 2 members of UPRONA.
The East African Community has held three Special Emergency Summits on Burundi since May 2015. The African Union Peace and Security Council met during the AU Summit in Johannesburg on 13 June 2015 to discuss Burundi. The PSC took a number of key decisions, including: calling on the government to postpone the elections until a climate that was more conducive to the conducting of free and fair elections was achieved; the immediate deployment by the AU Commission, of military observers to oversee the disarming of all armed militias; the deployment of human rights observers; and the continuation of national dialogue led by the UN facilitator. The EAC on 6 July 2015 appointed President Museveni of Uganda as the new facilitator. The national dialogue was suspended on the day before the elections, but the parties had already undertaken to discuss several key issues, including the formation of a Government of National Unity.
The Presidential elections took place on 21 July 2015, and the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) announced the results on 24 July 2015. The incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza, won 69.41 % and Mr Agathon Rwasa won 18.99%, with smaller parties such as UPRONA, FRODEBU and the FNL obtaining 2.14%, 1.36% and 1.01% respectively. The EAC deployed an observer mission to the presidential elections.
In its preliminary statement on 21 July 2015, the EAC Election Observation Misson noted that the lack of political consensus on various issues such as the electoral process, the electoral calendar, the insecurity in the country, the diminished media freedoms and the candidature of President Nkurunziza had contributed to “an atmosphere of uncertainty and fear”, and thus caused some opposition parties to withdraw from the Presidential race.
One of the findings by the EAC Election Observation Mission was that the elections took place in relative peace but that the principle of choice was hampered by the on-going political turmoil.
The EAC Election Observation Mission further stated that the “electoral process fell short of the principles and standards for holding free, fair, peaceful, transparent, and credible elections as stipulated in various international, continental as well as the EAC Principles of Election Observation and Evaluation”.
The statement released by MENUB similarly noted that the elections took place “in an atmosphere of profound mistrust” and that freedom of expression, assembly and association had been severely impaired. Violence remained a feature throughout the entire process and media freedom was severely restricted. Most Burundians could however cast their ballots peacefully, and CENI made adequate preparations. MENUB concluded that, “while Election Day was relatively peaceful and conducted adequately, the overall environment was not conducive for an inclusive, free and credible electoral process”.
Both MENUB and EAC observers called for the national dialogue to continue and for the cessation of all violence. It is expected that the dialogue, led by President Museveni, will recommence soon.
South Africa, as the mediator in the Burundian peace process that led to the signing of the Arusha Accords and the return of peace and democracy in Burundi, following years of devastating civil war, has invested significantly in Burundi’s future peace and stability. South Africa will continue to stand by the people of Burundi in their search for sustainable peace, security and development