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Press Release – Burundi: Government Investigations Ignore State Abuses (13.04.2016)

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Independent International Inquiry Needed

NEW YORK, United States of America, April 13, 2016 –  The findings of a Burundian commission of inquiry into allegations of extrajudicial executions by members of the security forces on December 11, 2015, in the capital, Bujumbura, are misleading and biased, Human Rights Watch said today. This is one of several official inquiries that have failed to properly investigate security force abuses or hold those responsible to account.
The inquiry focused on reports of abuses during the most deadly operation by the Burundian security forces since the country’s crisis began in April. Human Rights Watch found that police and military shot dead scores of people in Nyakabiga and Musaga neighborhoods, apparently in retaliation for opposition attacks on four military installations, and for heavy shooting at security forces by gunmen in these neighborhoods.

“This is the latest in a series of commissions of inquiry in Burundi that has ignored widespread abuses by the security forces,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “These inquiries have covered up state abuses and have not led to justice.”

The Prosecutor General, Valentin Bagorikunda, set up an inquiry into the December 11 events on December 17, 2015. Summarizing the inquiry’s main conclusions on March 10, 2016, he did not mention killings or abuses of Bujumbura residents by the security forces. He claimed that those killed on December 11 were armed “combatants” wearing police or military uniforms.

Since 2010, there have been at least seven commissions of inquiry into allegations of killings and other abuses. Most of them have denied or downplayed serious abuses by state agents.

Human Rights Watch documented the killings of December 11 in detail and found no indications that the victims had participated in the attacks on the military installations. Some victims were found lying side by side, face down, and appeared to have been shot in the back or the head. Others survived with serious injuries. The security forces also carried out large-scale arbitrary arrests in both neighborhoods.

In March, two United Nations special rapporteurs and one from the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights visited Burundi to investigate human rights abuses at the request of the UN Human Rights Council. They plan to return in June and send a small team of human rights monitors to be based in the country.

Presenting their interim report to the Human Rights Council on March 22, Christof Heyns, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, said: “The overt violence of last year seems to have subsided. At the same time covert violence, for example, in the form of disappearances, seems to have increased… There are some in [the Burundian] government who seem to be open to change. Others, however, are in denial anything is wrong.”

Given the Burundian justice system’s inability or unwillingness to conduct credible and thorough investigations, an independent, international commission of inquiry is needed to establish the truth about the grave abuses in Burundi in the past year and support the efforts of the special rapporteurs, Human Rights Watch said.

An international commission with expertise in criminal and forensic investigations would conduct in-depth inquiries with a view to establishing individual responsibility for the most serious crimes. It would probe deeper into these crimes, complementing the work of UN and African Union human rights observers in Burundi as well as the Human Rights Council’s initiatives.

Burundian government officials have repeatedly claimed there is peace and security throughout the country, despite the fact that several hundred people have been killed over the past year and many others arbitrarily arrested, tortured or disappeared. The minister of human rights, social affairs and gender, Martin Nivyabandi, told the Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 22 that, “the situation is normalizing” and that, “Burundi today couldn’t be a land where impunity reigns.”

“Contrary to the minister’s statement, impunity has been at the heart of Burundi’s political system for years and is one of the principal causes of the current human rights crisis,” Bekele said.

Serious new abuses were reported throughout March and early April. Scores of people have been arrested and others taken away to unknown destinations by the police or intelligence services. Ruling party officials, police, and members of the ruling party youth league known as Imbonerakure arrested at least 16 members of the opposition party National Liberation Forces (FNL) at a bar in Kirundo province on March 12. The police spokesman, Pierre Nkurikiye, claimed they were conducting a political meeting without authorization.

Armed opposition groups have also been responsible for abuses. Unidentified men killed two ruling party officials in Bururi and Makamba provinces on March 15.

Since early 2016, the intelligence services have intensified surveillance of human rights activists, journalists, and other perceived critics, making it even more difficult to document and expose abuses and putting the few activists who remain at even greater risk.

Tensions were heightened on March 22, after an unidentified gunman shot dead Lt. Col. Darius Ikurakure, a military commander reportedly involved in many abuses, at the army headquarters in Bujumbura. Later that day, residents of Bujumbura reported that security forces arrested several people. That night, another military officer, Major Didier Muhimpundu, was killed in Bujumbura. An opposition group, the Republican Forces of Burundi (Forces républicaines du Burundi, FOREBU), later claimed responsibility for Ikurakure’s death.

“The government’s claims that Burundi is calm and that security is improving aren’t true,” Bekele said. “The recent killing of the military officials has heightened tensions, and many people are being arrested or simply go missing.”

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Burundian UN Security Council Resolution 2279; a good deed, but will it make a difference?

BurundiNTVNews

As the unrest and crisis in Burundi continues even if they have Peacekeepers in Central African Republic and Somalia. The Opposition and the Government still keeps on with killings and oppressive behavior from the Government Armed Forces from the Police and the Army. The Opposition even tries to do plots to take down people of higher rankings as they have even attacked and gone after ministers and army generals. That is why the United Nation Security Council on the 1st of April 2016 finally have come to resolution on the conflict as the Inclusive Inter-Burundian Dialogue that have been stalled after the Ugandan President Museveni was out of the picture. There since been little or no-talks between the powerful actors in the country.

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Even with stories of counter-insurgencies from Rwanda and trained militias to topple the President Nkurunziza shows the viability and how the positions are played at the moment. But here are the most specific and most important parts of the UN resolution 2279 (2016) of the Security Council:

“Stressing the primary responsibility of the Government of Burundi for ensuring security in its territory and protecting its population with respect for the rule of law, human rights and international humanitarian law, as applicable” (…)”Urges the Government of Burundi and all parties to reject any kind of violence and condemn any public statement inciting violence or hatred and demands that all sides in Burundi refrain from any action that would threaten peace and stability in the country” (…)”Urges the Government of Burundi to respect, protect and guarantee human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, in line with the country’s international obligations, to adhere to the rule of law, to bring to justice and hold accountable all those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law or violations and abuses of human rights, as applicable, including sexual violence and violations against children” (…)”Welcomes the steps made by the Government of Burundi to withdraw some media bans, cancel some arrest warrants and release a significant number of detainees, and urges the Government of Burundi to urgently fulfil the remaining commitments announced by the Government of Burundi on 23 February 2016 and to extend such measures to other media outlets and political detainees” (…)”Welcomes the consent of the Burundian authorities to increase to 200 the number of human rights observers (100) and military experts (100) of the AU, calls for their full and speedy deployment in Burundi, notes that 30 human rights observers and 15 military observers have been deployed so far, and urges the Government of Burundi and other concerned stakeholders to provide them with full cooperation in order to facilitate the implementation of their mandate” (…)”Calls on States in the region to contribute to a solution to the crisis in Burundi, and to refrain from supporting the activities of armed movements in any way, and recalls in this regard commitments of the States in the region under the Framework Agreement on the Peace, Security and Cooperation for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region and the 1951 Convention relating to the status of refugees” (UN Resolution 2279, 2016).

Most of this is expected from the United Nation Security Council and their values and the wishes of security of the people of Burundi; which is the reason for why the resolution occurs. The issue I have with it, is not that the Resolution finally get Blue-Helmets on the ground and they are supposed to help to gain peace. But when you see the amount of people, experts and military men from the Peacekeepers it is very little. As little as it seems to be a gimmick and then the world society “we did something” but initially that something was very little.

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And the Burundian Government will sure make sure their mandate is minor or small so they can conduct their affairs as much as they please only to formally do the implementation that are into the standards of the signed statues and the agreements done to international laws. So they don’t have grievances with anybody or anyone from the United Nation or the International donors to the Burundian Regime.

That the UN Peacekeepers will have the total of 100 Military Experts as Peacekeepers, that is a tiny base; they will not have the mandate or structure to do much in Burundi. It is more than the 15 Military Experts that are there now, so it is as adjustment. The Human Rights Monitoring will not be able to force anything, but to report to the UN and AU on the matters and issues on the ground. For me what is important is to remember the dire state that was in Rwanda before 1994. As this is similar and also had a Peacekeeping mission. But looking at the similarities when coming to the mission; the Burundian Peacekeepers can’t do much about nothing.

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Important dates and issues with Rwandan Peacekeeping Mission:

“On 22 June 1993, the Security Council, by its resolution 846 (1993), authorized the establishment of UNOMUR on the Uganda side of the common border, for an initial period of six months, subject to review every six months. The Council decided that the verification would focus primarily on transit or transport, by roads or tracks which could accommodate vehicles, of lethal weapons and ammunition across the border, as well as any other material which could be of military use” (…)”As requested by resolution 846 (1993), the United Nations undertook consultations with the Government of Uganda with a view to concluding a status of mission agreement for UNOMUR. The agreement was finalized and entered into force on 16 August 1993. This opened the way to deployment of an advance party which arrived in the mission area on 18 August. UNOMUR established its headquarters in Kabale, Uganda, about 20 kilometres north of the border with Rwanda. By the end of September 1993, the Mission had reached its authorized strength of 81 military observers and was fully operational” (…)”. Reporting to the Security Council on 15 December 1993 on the activities of the Mission, the Secretary-General noted that UNOMUR was “a factor of stability in the area and that it was playing a useful role as a confidence-building mechanism”. Upon his recommendation, the Council, by its resolution 891 (1993) of 20 December 1993, extended UNOMUR’s mandate by six months. The Council expressed its appreciation to the Government of Uganda for its cooperation and support for UNOMUR and also underlined the importance of a cooperative attitude on the part of the civilian and military authorities in the mission area” (UNOMOR Background).

We all who followed the Situation in the Rwandan Genocide knew what happened after this and that the mission of United Nations Peacekeepers was not incapable of doing anything with the dire situation in Rwanda that was already in 1993 and what escalated in 1994. Those 81 Military Observers did not have the manpower or the mandate to sufficiently do anything in the country.

As we are today in April 2016, 12 years after 1994, in the neighbor country of Burundi who also have history of civil war and violence, that ended in the Arusha Peace Accord of 2000 and gave way to over a decade of peace. Still, it was not sufficient or enough. 

Burundi Violence

So the 15 Military Experts or Observers cannot deal with anything especially since their mandate is not yet there; as the negotiations with the Burundian government are under way, the Burundian government wants as little or no meddling in their internal affairs; and with that in mind they have stifled the ability to have international peacekeepers in the country. Even if the UN Mission in Burundi with their 100 Peacekeepers, how much more power will they compared to the counterparts in Rwanda in 1993-1994? I doubt the Burundian Government will give up sovereignty and let them play national Police and Army over them. As they have Army Forces in Peacekeeping mission themselves in Somalia and Central African Republic.

Burundian President Nkurunziza said this in late December 2015: “Everybody should respect the borders of Burundi. If the troops are in violation of this decision, they will have attacked Burundi, and each Burundian must stand up to fight them” (…)”The country will have been attacked, and we will fight them” (…)”You cannot send troops to a country if the United Nations Security Council has not accepted it… the UN resolution says the international community should respect the independence of Burundi” (Daily Monitor, 2015).

Now yesterday the new Resolution said they would extend the Military Experts (Observers) which counters the words and arguments used by the President in December 2015. That an Resolution from the United Nation would change the matter, even the resolution is so vague and non-descriptive as it even in dialogue with the Burundian Government:

“…urges the Government of Burundi and other concerned stakeholders to provide them with full cooperation in order to facilitate the implementation of their mandate” (UN Resolution 2279, 2016).

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This gives way to Burundian Government to do as they see fit in their sovereign territory while the Peacekeeping mission of United Nations will have little power or mandate to address, because we already knows that President Nkurunziza have little interest in having a powerful mandate to the United Nations Peacekeeping mission as he already wanted to attack the African Union planned Peacekeeping mission in the Country.

The 100 people of the UN Peacekeeping mission will in this state, and with this sort of arrangement and resolution gives lots of responsibility towards the Burundian Government, and will certainly not made in way that is adjusted to the concerns of the United Nation Security Council.

This resolution gives little or no direct mandate to the United Nations Mission and gives way for negotiations for the Burundian Government. Therefore the start of it is flawed and leaves possibilities of being a minor sting of pride for President Nkurunziza; as much as it was for President Juvénal Habyarimana of Rwanda in 1993; to have a peacekeeping mission in his country. But if it has limited power or even reach, and with little manpower as it have, the worry for the Burundian government not necessary have to be there. Because the United Nation Mission can’t or doesn’t have the ability to stop anything; just peeping and monitoring at best; as much as the Human Rights workers that are parts of the Mission. The Military experts will be lame ducks, while waiting for a secure mandate. A mandate that the Government of Burundi not wanting to give them, as that will take away their sovereignity as a state and nation. Peace.  

Reference:

Daily Monitor – ‘Nkurunziza warns he would fight AU peacekeepers’ (30.12.2015) link: http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/World/Nkurunziza-warns-fight-AU-peacekeepers-/-/688340/3015170/-/k7p15vz/-/index.html

United Nation  – ‘Uganda-Rwanda-UNOMOR Background’

Joint Communique (PSC/AHG/COMM.3(DLXXI): African Union on the Burundian Crisis (06.02.2016)

Burundi PSC JC P1 06022016Burundi PSC JC P2 06022016Burundi PSC JC P3 06022016Burundi PSC JC P4 06022016

Confidential: Note to the Security Council on Contigency Planning for Uniformed Personnel related to the Situation in Burundi (06.01.2016)

Security Council Note P1 UN BurundiSecurity Council Note P2 UN BurundiSecurity Council Note P3 UN BurundiSecurity Council Note P4 UN BurundiSecurity Council Note P5 UN BurundiSecurity Council Note P6 UN BurundiSecurity Council Note P7 UN Burundi

Press Release: The African Union Welcomes the Resumption of the Inter-Burundian Dialogue and teh Reiterates its call to the Parties to Extend Full Cooperation to the Mediation (29.12.2015)

AU Burundi 29.12.15

Press Release: The African Union welcomes the Imminent Commencent of the Inter-Burundian Dialogue (25.12.2015)

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The AU reiterates its call on the Burundian Government to urgently consent to the deployment of the planned African Prevention and Protection Mission in Burundi

Addis Ababa, 25 December 2015: The Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union (AU), Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, continues to closely follow the situation in Burundi and efforts aimed at finding an early and peaceful solution to the current crisis.

In this context, she welcomes the resumption of the inter-Burundian dialogue in Entebbe, Uganda, on 28 December 2015, under the auspices of His Excellency President Yoweri Museveni. She calls on all the Burundian stakeholders to extend full cooperation to the Mediation and to place the interest of their country and its people above any other consideration. She reiterates that only a genuine and truly inclusive dialogue will enable the Burundian stakeholders to overcome the current challenges.

As a follow-up to the communiqué adopted by the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC), at its 565th meeting held on 17 December 2015, regarding notably the deployment of an African Prevention and Protection Mission in Burundi (MAPROBU), the Chairperson of the Commission has written to His Excellency President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi, to seek the consent of the Burundian Government for the early deployment of MAPROBU and the effective implementation of its mandate. In that letter, Dr. Dlamini Zuma stressed that the AU has no other agenda than to assist the Government and people of Burundi at their hour of need, consistent with its commitment to promote African solutions to African problems. She expressed the AU’s readiness to rapidly initiate discussions with the Government of Burundi to devise the best ways and means of facilitating the deployment of the Mission, in a spirit of mutual understanding and cooperation.

The Chairperson of the Commission has also written to the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), His Excellency Ban Ki-moon, to convey the PSC call for full UN support, including the authorization of a support package funded by assessed contributions, to enable the rapid and effective deployment of the envisaged Mission, on the basis of the expressed consent of the Government of Burundi.

The Chairperson of the Commission underlines that the deployment of MAPROBU and the effective implementation of its mandate will greatly help in defusing the current tension and reducing the level of violence. This, in turn, will facilitate the ongoing efforts to promote dialogue spearheaded by H.E. President Yoweri Museveni, on behalf of the Region.

As directed by the PSC, the Commission is taking steps to finalize the Concept of Operation and other planning documents for MAPROBU, to facilitate the early deployment of the Mission, on the basis of the expressed consent of the Government of Burundi.

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