Ambassador David Pressman
Alternate Representative to the UN for Special Political Affairs
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
April 1, 2016
Thank you, Mr. President. Let me begin by congratulating you and the Chinese delegation on assuming the presidency of the Security Council. Thank you for convening us this evening.
The situation in Burundi is beyond fragile. The ongoing repression, harassment, and violence against the legitimate political opposition, the closure of free and impartial media, and widespread impunity for human rights violations and abuses – including those involving killings and alleged sexual violence by security services against political opponents, members of civil society and others – continue. Almost a quarter of a million have fled. Again, over a quarter of a million Burundians have already fled the country since April 2015 out of fear for their lives, and countless more have been internally displaced. People do not flee in the hundreds of *millions unless there is a very, very serious problem.
Against this backdrop, let's be clear: progress will be measured by peace, and peace will come from genuine political dialogue that is inclusive. To date, while there have been opening ceremonies, the real discussions have not commenced. We strongly support former President Mpkapa in his efforts to move this process forward and urge a date be scheduled for discussions to begin. Each day that this crisis continues makes it that much harder for Burundi to regain the progress it has achieved over the past decade, risking a much longer-term and much deadlier crisis.
While in our discussions, some have pointed to the release of a "significant number of prisoners." This resolution does not do that. This resolution instead welcomes "the steps made by the Government of Burundi" towards that end and urges them to fulfill their commitments. The progress made by the Government of Burundi to date is woefully insufficient. There have been plenty of press releases, but not enough political prisoner releases. We acknowledge the government's acts of clemency for prisoners who are old, under-aged, or infirm – but that is not the same as releasing political prisoners, and they must begin to deliver on those important promises.
We have been promised that free media would be allowed to operate, but today only 2 out of 5 banned outlets are today operating.
It was agreed that 200 African Union human rights and military observers would be deployed, but today there are currently 32 human rights observers and 15 military observers on the ground in Burundi, and they do not have a Memorandum of Understanding with the government.
Recognizing the enormity of these problems, today's action by the Security Council is indeed important.
With this resolution, the Security Council expresses its support for the African Union's efforts in Burundi, including the deployment of the 200 AU human rights observers and military observers. We call on the Government of Burundi to cooperate fully to facilitate the implementation of the mandate of these human rights observers and military experts. With this resolution, the Security Council endorses the EAC-led, regionally-mediated dialogue. Only such an inclusive and regionally-mediated dialogue can resolve this crisis and restore stability to Burundi. We urge all stakeholders to expedite the resumption of this dialogue in pursuit of a peaceful and consensual path forward for Burundi.
With this resolution, the Security Council urges the Government of Burundi to deliver in reality what it has committed to in the press. With this resolution, the Security Council has sent a strong message to the Government of Burundi and the opposition to cease all violence, refrain from provocation, and to commit to peacefully resolving this crisis through dialogue – a dialogue based on respect for the Arusha Agreement.
And with this resolution, we are today sending a more robust, larger international civilian presence into Burundi to advance political dialogue, security, and rule of law. We are also asking for options for the deployment of a police mission, which should include options on the deployment of formed police units, to Burundi to advance rule of law.
The United State appreciates the efforts the Security Council members and our colleagues have made to find consensus on this important resolution.