Fifth Session of the General Assembly
Agenda Item Three: Address further concerns of Burundian civil unrest
UNGA Scenario – Unrest in Burundi
Burundi is a landlocked country in the Great Lakes region of Africa. A former colony of Germany and then Belgium, it is the third poorest nation on the planet with a largely rural population and agricultural based economy. After independence Burundi experienced several civil wars resulting in genocide with a tentative peace agreement only being reached in 2000, which was monitored by the African Union and later the UN and resulted in the 2005 constitution guaranteeing representation for the main Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups. In 2006 the UN shifted its mission from peacekeeping to reconstruction however the ceasefire was never perfect and rebel attacks continued.
On the 25th April 2015 the ruling CNDD-FDD party announced President Nkurunziza would be running for a third term as president in the June general election. Under the Burundian constitution the president is limited to two five year terms of office – however supporters of Nkurunziza claim that as he was elected for his first term by Parliament rather than a general election, he has only technically served one term and is still eligible to run for a second.
Violent protests erupted at this announcement which were quickly declared illegal by the government. On the 1st of May a grenade attack took place in the capital killing three people. The government continued to refer to the protesters as terrorists and human rights abuses are alleged to have been committed against detainees. Burundi’s Constitutional court ruled that the third term was legal, although opposition leaders disregarded the ruling as it was made by only three of the seven judges, the remaining four having fled the country after allegedly being threatened by pro-government forces.
On the 13th of May, while the president was attending a conference in Tanzinia, Major General Godefroid Niyombare announced a Coup d’état over national radio. Backed by senior defence and police figures including the former defence minister soldiers took over various sites including the international airport. Following the announcement there were reports of both heavy fighting and civilians celebrating in the streets. President Nkurunziza attempted to return to Burundi but his plane was prevented from doing so.
By the 14th May the leader of Burundi’s armed forces had announced that the coup had been defeated and called upon the remaining rebel soldiers to surrender. Soon after radio stations that broadcast the speech were reported to have been attacked by men in police uniforms and heavy fighting took place near the state broadcasting complex. The coup was condemned by the African Union which called for a return to rule of law and an end to the violence. By the 18th of May the coup had petered out, with many senior figures appearing in court and several cabinet members sacked.
Although the parliamentary election was delayed, the more controversial presidential election was not, leading to further clashes between soldiers, citizens and police.
President Nkuruziza warned against ethnic violence and a return to civil war. The election itself was marred by violence, with the leader of an opposition party being murdered, and gun and grenade attacks killing many in the capital. In northern Burundi full scale military clashes took place following one of the coup leaders condemning President Nkuruziza on Kenyan television. The opposition parties boycotted the election in protest and polling stations were attacked.
After the election the main opposition leader Agathon Rwasa proposed a coalition unity government on the condition that President Nkuruziza’s term as president was greatly shortened and urged an end to the violence in the north of the country. The government accepted the idea of a coalition but rejected the idea of a shortened presidential term, and so the deal fell through.
In the following months, the violence continued, with a spate of assassination attempts on government, opposition, military and human rights figures along with brutal police reprisals. This culminated in attacks on several military bases by rebels on November the 11th. There were reports that some of the bodies of alleged attackers were found dead with their hands tied behind their backs, but the government asserted that the dead were rebel soldiers who were killed in the attacks.
It was this event that triggered an announcement by the African Union that they intended to deploy peacekeepers into Burundi, a proposal rejected by the government which said that such an act would be considered an invasion and that the military would react with full force. The African Union has said that under article 4(h) of the Constitutive Act it is allowed to deploy forces inside a country against its wishes “in light of grave circumstances namely: genocide and crimes against humanity”. Splits have emerged in the higher ranks of the Burundian military as to whether it should remain a neutral force or loyal to the government.
The UNSC unanimously passed Resolution 2248 condemning human rights abuses in the country and urging the continuation of Ugandan led mediation talks. Although deciding to remain officially seized in the matter, the resolution hinted at further actions against those failing to take part in mediation. By February 2016 – The African Union voted not to send peacekeepers into Burundi against the government’s will. Supporters hailed it as a victory for state sovereignty, whereas detractors view the decision as weakening the credibility of the African Union.
President wants another term – loads of arguing over whether it is legal.
Court rules it legal but allegations of intimidation
AU threatens intervention
UN writes strongly worded letter
AU won’t invade, but also writes strongly worded letter