Statement by the Permanent Representative of South Africa, Ambassador Jerry Matjila, on the situation in Burundi

19 February 2019

Mr President

We thank former President Michel Kafando, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Burundi and Ambassador Jurg Lauber, Chair of the Burundi Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission for their important and insightful briefings on the evolving situation in Burundi and for their unwavering commitment to the Country.

South Africa fully supports the facilitation process led by the East African Community (EAC) in the spirit of the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, with the support of the African Union and the United Nations. In this regard, the efforts of the mediator, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and the facilitator, former President Benjamin Mkapa of the United Republic of Tanzania is acknowledged and commended. We also commend the essential and valuable work of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, former President Kafando as well as the Burundi Configuration of the PBC, under the able leadership of Ambassador Lauber.

Mr President,

South Africa welcomes Burundi’s participation in the East African Summit of the Heads of State and the African Union Summit last week. This participation is in line with our longstanding position of the important role played by regional and continental bodies in the resolution of the impasse.  With the submission of the final report of former President Mkapa to the EAC, South Africa and the international community need to await direction from the leadership of the East African Community and the African Union in strengthening our commitment to helping Burundi, especially in view of the elections scheduled for 2020. SA supports a Burundi led process which respect its sovereignty and that is within the parameters of the Constitution.

Mr President,

Any political impasse in Burundi can only be addressed through a fully inclusive dialogue.  We therefore call on the international community to continue to support initiatives of the EAC. We deplore any efforts that seek to undermine or exclude the Arusha Accords by any party.  As South Africa we are concerned with the current trajectory that has overturned the 2000 Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement as such we implore on the mediation process to revert back to the principles of that agreement.  South Africa calls upon the Burundi to implement the principles of the 2000 Arusha Accords.  It is our view that the Global Ceasefire Agreement flowed from the Arusha Accords and as such the two should be read together.  South Africa stands ready to support the Government and people of Burundi.

Mr President,

We encourage Burundi to work closely with the East African Community and the African Union to create an environment conducive to the holding of elections.  In this regard, all Burundian parties need to demonstrate a spirit of cooperation in order to ensure peace and stability beyond 2020.  South Africa welcomes the decision by the government of Burundi to finance the elections with their national budget.

With regard to the political developments in Burundi we are encouraged by the continued stable security situation in the country. We would like to congratulate the Government of Burundi on initiating the preparatory process for the elections, especially the establishment, on 31 August 2018 of an Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), according to the Burundian Electoral Code.

Mr President,

We commend Burundi’s contribution to peace and security through its deployment of troop contingents. Burundi participates alongside other countries in United Nations and African Union peacekeeping missions with much success, with more than 6,000 Burundian men and women deployed in various peacekeeping operations, mostly in the Central African Republic and Somalia. We therefore call on the international community to support Burundi in strengthening their peacekeeping capacity, as it is of critical institutional value to the county. We would like to congratulate Burundi on their appointment to the African Union Peace and Security Council.
 
We note Burundi’s adoption of a ten-year National Development Plan which provides direction on the way towards sustainable development in the year 2030. We urge the international community to do more to alleviate the socioeconomic challenges and humanitarian situation facing the people of Burundi and call on its partners to support the implementation of the NDP for the benefit of the Burundian people. In this vein, we reiterate the call by the AU during it 32nd Summit for the European Union to lift the unilateral sanctions imposed against the Republic of Burundi.

We encourage Burundi to continue to work towards the voluntary repatriation and dignified return of refugees. The gradual return of refugees is evidence of the improvement in the country’s situation. To date approximately 210,000 refugees have returned voluntarily to Burundi. In 2018 alone, 58,262 Burundians have returned mainly from Tanzania, Congo, Kenya and Uganda. We call on the international community to support these efforts and in particular to provide assistance for the refugees’ return and reintegration.

Finally we appeal to the international community to support the Government and the EAC mediation process to lay the foundation for an environment that is conducive to the holding of democratic elections, to support a peaceful transfer of power, in order to ensure peace and stability beyond 2020.

I thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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