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Burundi: Ban welcomes promise of ‘inclusive dialogue,’ release of detainees

Secretary-General Ban addresses the press in Burundi after meeting with President Pierre Nkurunziza (left). He is also meeting with other actors in support of UN efforts to resolve the country’s political crisis. Photo: UNDP/Aude Rossignol

23 February 2016 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed the decision today by the President of Burundi to withdraw some media bans, cancel arrest warrants and release detainees as goodwill gestures to try to end months of violence in the crisis-torn country.

Speaking at a press conference in Burundi, Mr. Ban said that President Pierre Nkurunziza told him this morning that, among other measures, he will release a list of 1,200 detainees.

“This is an encouraging step,” the UN chief said, emphasizing that he would expect that additional measures should be taken.

Mr. Ban said that at his invitation yesterday evening, representatives of the political actors, from both the Government ruling party and opposition party, sat down together to discuss Burundi’s future, and promised to engage in inclusive dialogue.

“Nothing prevents them from continuing on this course,” the Secretary-General stressed, adding that President Nkurunziza also confirmed that he will be engaging in an inclusive dialogue.

Noting that he was last in Burundi in June 2010, only weeks before the general elections, Mr. Ban said that at the time, he spoke about the peace dividends of the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement and the Global Ceasefire Agreement, which put the country on a path to economic recovery and national reconciliation.

“The effort that ended the civil war hinged on the willingness of former battlefield enemies to sit at the same table and become partners in Burundi’s common future,” the UN chief said.

Mr. Ban also underscored that it is necessary to shift from a focus on crisis response to a culture of early action – what he called a “preventive diplomacy.”

“That is one of the main reasons I am in Burundi today and it is one of the main calls to action when I am convening world leaders at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in May 2016,” he said.

Mr. Ban added that his Special Adviser on Yemen, Jamal Benomar, has deployed his team in Burundi and is working with the Government to support a “credible and inclusive political dialogue” and advise the authorities on addressing security concerns.

“I have full confidence and trust in Mr. Benomar and I hope that the Government of Burundi will work closely with him,” Mr. Ban said.

“Burundi’s political leaders must be willing to summon the courage and confidence that will make a credible political process possible and ensure that the people of this beautiful nation can once again live in peace and enjoy human rights,” the UN chief concluded.

Burundi was thrown into crisis this past April when President Nkurunziza decided to run for a controversial third term that he went on to win in July. To date, it has been reported that more than 400 people have been killed, more than 240,000 have fled the nation, and thousands more have been arrested and possibly subjected to human rights violations.

Displaced people need to be given opportunity to rebuild their lives, Ban says at camp in DR Congo

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visiting an IDP camp in Kitchanga, North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Cong (DRC). UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

23 February 2016 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today reiterated his call for support from Member States to resolve such global humanitarian issues as the refugee and migrant crisis and ensuring human dignity for all, during a visit to a site hosting internally displaced persons (IDPs) in North Kivu, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

“We have to give hope to […] young people,” said Mr. Ban on the first stop of his two-day visit. “Particularly, we have to do much more to bring all these children back to school; we have to do much more to protect human dignity and human rights of women and girls to save them, to protect them from sexual violence.”

He said he plans to meet with President Joseph Kabila and other senior Congolese Government officials to discuss all these matters tomorrow.

Today, he spoke with women in the IDP camp in Mungote, describing the experience as “very humbling.” As Secretary-General, “I will do my best efforts, working together with the United Nations Member States,” he said.

He said his visit to IDP camps, meeting so many people, particularly young people, reminded him of when he was six years old in Republic of Korea in 1950. “When the Korean War broke out, it was a deadly horrible war. There were millions of people killed and tens of millions had been separated, displaced. I was one of them. I had to flee,” he said, adding that the United Nations had been a “beacon of hope” then and had rescued his country “from the brink of collapse.”

Now the United Nations are doing the same, despite a lack of resources, to protect the rights of 60 million IDPs and refugees around the world, the highest number since the end of the war.

To that end, he will convene the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, in May, as well as a summit on global migration and refugee issues in September. “We need support from the Member States as the UN cannot do it alone,” he said. “No country can resolve all these issues alone.”

Responding to a question about authorities wanting to close some IDP camps in North Kivu, he said he told the Governor not to close them. The authorities seem to be lacking resources, but the UN will work together with the local and central Governments. “It is important to provide life-saving assistance to those people who need daily humanitarian assistance,” he said.

On a question on efforts to improve security in the areas of origin of IDPs, he said people should be protected from violence, particularly women and girls. But there are clearly limits for peacekeepers to do it all. That is why the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or MONUSCO, the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, known by the French acronym FARDC, and the national police are working very closely.

“The protection of civilians is the number one priority for UN peacekeepers,” he said.

On 24 February, Mr. Ban will be in the DRC capital, Kinshasa, for the opening session of the Great Lakes Private Sector Investment Conference. He is also expected to meet with President Kabila, as well as several Government officials, and political and civil society representatives.

On 25 February, the Secretary-General will leave Kinshasa for Juba, South Sudan, where he is expected to meet with President Salva Kiir and visit a Protection of Civilians’ site that is run by the UN mission .

Uganda: UN concerned over arrests of opposition leaders, use of force since elections

A marketplace in Kampala, Uganda. Photo: World Bank/Arne Hoel

23 February 2016 – The United Nations human rights office expressed concern today over the “tense” post-election situation in Uganda, following reports that at least two people have been killed and an unknown number of people injured, heavy military and police forces deployed in the streets of Kampala, and the arrests of four opposition leaders since Thursday’s elections.

Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) spokesperson Cécile Pouilly told the regular news briefing in Geneva today that the Office is also concerned about the “intimidating display of force” used this past Friday by Ugandan police and military forces to evacuate the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) headquarters in Kampala, with tear gas and life ammunition reportedly used, as well as by worrying information of journalists being harassed and intimidated by security forces.

“We remind the Government of Uganda of its obligations under international human rights law not to unduly restrict freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” said Ms. Pouilly.

“Law enforcement officials shall avoid the use of force or, when that is not possible, restrict it to the minimum extent necessary. Anyone who is arrested shall be informed of the reasons for the arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him or her,” she added.

The FDC’s leader, Kizza Besigye, who was arrested and released on three different occasions this past week, was placed under house arrest on Saturday without charge or judicial order. Yesterday morning, he was taken to a police station in Nagalaama, a town located some 30 kilometres from the capital city of Kampala, after he tried to leave his home, the OHCHR spokesperson said.

Two other presidential candidates have also been reportedly arrested over the past few days. Amama Mbabazi, from the Go Forward party, has been under house arrest since Saturday, while Abed Bwanika, President of the People’s Development Party, was reportedly intercepted by police on Friday at Mutukula, close to the border with Tanzania, as he was attempting to leave the country with his family. Kampala’s Lord Mayor, Erias Lukwago, was also arrested on Saturday, as he was talking to the press about Mr Besigye’s arrest.

Source: United Nations

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