Despite progress, challenges still ahead for Burundi: UN officials

10:13, May 18, 2011      

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While Burundi has made important strides towards peace and development in recent years, more remains to be done, UN officials told a Security Council meeting on the Eastern African nation held in the United Nations Tuesday.

Karin Landgren, special representative of the UN secretary- general and head of the UN Office in Burundi (BNUB) stressed that Burundi's economy is facing difficulties, which should be addressed.

"Burundi faces severe poverty and high unemployment including among youth," she said. "The cost of fuel has increased by over 20 percent since October, raising the prices of all basic commodities in turn and placing severe strains on many families."

She noted that a lack of availability of sufficiently arable land for Burundi's farmers has also become problematic. "If left unchecked, these problems could lead to conflicts over land that have occurred in Burundi's past," she added.

BNUB and its predecessor the UN Integrated Office in Burundi ( BINUB) have worked to promote peace and security in a country that was engaged in a civil war driven by hostilities between Hutu and Tutsi peoples from 1993 to 2006.

Paul Seger, permanent representative of Switzerland to the UN and chair of the Burundi Configuration of the UN Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) told the Council that strategies to increase peace in the country must be accompanied by strategies to combat poverty and increase development.

"There is no peace without development, neither can there be development without peace," he said.

The PBC's Strategic Framework for Peacebuilding in Burundi incorporates socioeconomic and development considerations.

"The major challenge that we perceive is when combating poverty, within the framework of our strategy, we must involve the most vulnerable members of society, those most sorely affected in economic terms so that we can provide them with the resources to live in a productive fashion and ensure that there is no attempt to return to violence because of the existence of a viable alternative that makes sense," Seger said.

The two officials spoke favorably about Burundi's plans to create a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

"The government intends to create a truth and reconciliation commission to be operational by January 2012 and to establish a judicial mechanism to address impunity after the TRC has completed its work," said Landgren, "These are important commitments. The government has underlined to BNUB that the TRC process must be grounded in reconciliation and not in score settling and for this broad public awareness and orientation will be crucial."

Seger said that the PBC is supportive of the creation of transitional justice mechanisms. "I think the way in which the past is addressed is also a way of tackling the present and the future too," he said, "It's important to strengthen cohesion in the country rather than any new divisions, but I think we are on the right track and ready to support the country there."

Burundian officials outlined a plan for transitional justice to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in Geneva on May 3. Landgren regarded Burundi's creation of an Independent National Human Rights Commission in January as another positive step forward.

"An impartial and independent national human rights commission can strengthen Burundi's compliance with its international obligations and enhance the protection and promotion of human rights, thus promoting national stability," she said.

Source: Xinhua
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