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The East African : Nov 10th 2014
The EastAfrican NEWS NOVEMBER 8-14,2014 RUN-UP TO ELECTIONS Burundi in ‘decisive phase’ as UN swaps missions Head of UN political o∞ce talks of eased tensions amid ≥umou≥s of attacks By KEVIN J KELLEY Special Correspondent B urundi is mainly stable as the United Nations pre- pares to shut its political office in the country and launch an observer mission keyed to national elections next year, the UN Security Council was told last week. Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, head of the UN political office in Burundi, said the country has reached “a decisive phase” in its efforts to overcome a history of extreme ethnic violence. Hundreds of thousands of Burundians lost their lives in 12 years of civil conflict that ended in 2005. Youths aligned with politi- cal organisations have been engaged in fewer acts of violence in recent months, Mr Onanga-Anyanga told the Security Council in a November 5 briefing. He welcomed moves by President Pierre Nkurunziza to ease tensions by warning against disruptions of public meetings and threats against opposition figures, journalists and civil society activists. But worrisome develop- ments are occurring as well, Mr Onanga-Anyanga cited a sharp increase in criminal activities in several provinces. Panic is spreading along with rumours of attacks by unidentified armed groups whose members are said to sometimes be wearing military uniforms. In addition, Burundi has made no progress in bringing to justice those responsible for extrajudicial killings during the past three years by the UN political office, Mr Onanga-Anyanga said. Problems besetting the In- dependent National Electoral Commission are generating doubts about its impartiality, the UN envoy added. Trials of leading critics of the government are also stoking mistrust among opposition parties in the run-up to the presidential election scheduled to be held in June, Mr Onanga-Anyanga said. “There is no doubt that Bu- rundi is going through a challenging and decisive phase,” the UN representative said, adding, “It is not too late to transform these misunderstandings into an opportunity to reinforce trust in the electoral process.” Paul Seger, permanent representative of Switzerland to the UN and chair of the Burundi configuration of the UN Peacebuilding Commission, who also briefed the Security Council, urged opposition parties not to repeat the “mistake” they had made in 2010 by boycotting elections. Concerns were raised dur- ing the council meeting about the agreement to close the UN political office, known by its French acronym BNUB, at the end of this year. Australian UN Ambassador Gary Quinlan, who is serving as Security Council president in November, offered assurances of continuity in UN operations in Burundi. A peacekeeper in Burundi receives a machete from a civilian surrendering his weapon. Picture: File 9 NEW OFFICE The government had initially wanted BNUB to cease operations this past August on the grounds that the office’s emphasis on preventing conflict was having the effect of scaring away potential investors. A compromise was reached whereby the office will be shut down on December 31. The following day, the UN is set to open an electoral mission that will monitor preparations for the June voting as well as the conduct of the election itself and its aftermath.
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