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Security Council delegation visits Burundi in diplomatic push to end months of political tension

A visiting Security Council delegation arrives in Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi. Photo: UNIC Bujumbura

22 January 2016 – Diplomats from the United Nations Security Council are wrapping up a visit to crisis-torn Burundi, after meetings with top Government officials in the capital, Bujumbura, where they encouraged all parties to pursue an inclusive dialogue process that would help end months of political turmoil.

During the visit, the delegation met with Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza, and was also expected to meet the Foreign Minister, the President of the National Assembly and representatives of political parties, civil society and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Speaking to UN Radio after talks with the President Nkurunziza, Ambassador Ismael Gaspar Martins of Angola – who co-led the visit alongside United States Ambassador Samantha Power and deputy French Ambassador, Alexis Lamek – said the delegation had reviewed the security situation in the county as well as the proposal for mediation by the East African Community (EAC), led by President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda.

“We also agreed that the Council should look at how it could support this mediation in order to produce the results that would lower current tensions in Burundi,” said Ambassador Gaspar Martins, adding that the Council delegation will next head to the African Union’s headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to brief officials there on the discussions that had been held in Bujumbura.

This Security Council’s diplomatic push comes as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) last week warned that “alarming” new trends are emerging in Burundi, including cases of sexual violence by security forces and a sharp increase in enforced disappearances and torture cases. He also called for an urgent investigation into the events that took place in Bujumbura on 11 and 12 December, including the reported existence of at least nine mass graves.

“The 11 December attacks against three military camps and the large-scale human rights violations that occurred in their immediate aftermath appear to have triggered new and extremely disturbing patterns of violations,” said Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in a news release.

Burundi faced a serious political crisis since President Nkurunziza took the controversial decision to seek a third presidential term last year. Since then, hundreds of people have reportedly been killed. Some 220,000 people have sought refuge in neighbouring countries and thousands more have been displaced within the country.

 

Haiti: UN chief concerned at postponement of polls; calls on all sides to refrain from violence

Voting in the second round for the senatorial and parliamentary elections and the first round for a new president in Haiti’s capital Port au Prince, 25 October 2015. Photo: UN/MINUSTAH/Igor Rugwiza

23 January 2016 – Voicing concern at the postponement of tomorrow’s already delayed presidential elections in Haiti, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon today called on all political actors to refrain from violence and complete the electoral process peacefully without further delay.

“The Secretary-General urges all political actors to reject all forms of violence and intimidation and refrain from any action that can further disrupt the democratic process and stability in the country,” a statement issued by his spokesman said, reaffirming the UN’s commitment to continue supporting the consolidation of democracy and stabilisation in Haiti.

“He strongly urges all stakeholders to work towards the peaceful completion of the electoral process without delay, through the forging of a consensual solution that will allow the people of Haiti to exercise their right to vote for the election of a new President and the remaining representatives of the new Parliament.”

Tensions have been simmering since the first round of the elections in October, and Jovenel Moise from the governing party and former government executive Jude Celestin, the two top vote getters then, were set to face each other in the run-off, originally set for 27 December.

According to press reports, this second round was again postponed on Friday amid violent protests and the opposition’s refusal to participate.The transfer of power to a new president is constitutionally mandated to take place on 7 February.

The UN has maintained a peacekeeping operation, the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), since 2004. With more than 4,500 troops and police deployed currently deployed in Haiti, its mandate has evolved over the years from supporting a transitional government to embracing earthquake recovery and facilitating the political process.

 

UN health agency urges vigilance in South-East Asia after new case of MERS confirmed in Thailand

Doctors look at an X-ray. Photo: WHO

24 January 2016 – The United Nations health agency cautioned South-East Asia States today to remain vigilant against the continuing risks of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS CoV) after Thailand confirmed the sometimes fatal disease in a traveller, its second case in seven months.

“The new case of MERS CoV is a reminder of the continued risk of importation of the disease from countries where it still persists,” Poonam Khetrapal Singh, UN World Health Organization (WHO) South-East Asia Region Director, said.

“All countries need to further enhance surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections, focus on early diagnosis, and step up infection prevention and control procedures in health-care facilities to rapidly detect any case of importation and effectively prevent its spread.”

A 71-year -old Omani, who arrived in Bangkok for treatment on 22 January and was admitted to a private hospital, tested positive for MERS and has since been transferred to the Bamrasnaradura Infectious Disease Institute. Measures are being taken to trace all those who could have been in his contact during his journey to Thailand, and within Bangkok.

This is the second MERS case in Thailand, and in the WHO South-East Asia Region. Last June another Omani traveler in Bangkok tested positive. South-East Asia countries have recently been reviewing and strengthening preparedness to respond to MERS.

WHO, which is supporting regional Health Ministries in building capacities and strengthening preparedness, has called for ensuring that strict infection control measures are in place.

MERS CoV is caused by a virus. Typical symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Pneumonia is common, but not always present. Gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhea, have also been reported.

The disease was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012, from where the majority of cases have been reported. Since then more than 1,333 cases have been reported from 26 countries. In the Republic of Korea, there have been 166 cases, 24 of them fatal.

Source: United Nations

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Karl William

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United Nations Section

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Robert Williams

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