Discussion on the AU Human Rights Observers and Military Experts to the Republic of Burundi


Date | 27 April, 2021

Tomorrow (27 April) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will convene its 994th session to consider the report of the Chairperson of the AU Commission on the Human Rights Observers (HROs) and Military Experts (MEs) mission deployed to the Republic of Burundi and decide on the future of AU’s HROs and MEs in Burundi.

The PSC Chairperson of the month, Djibouti’s Permanent Representative, Mohammed Idriss Farah, is expected to make opening remark. The report of the Chairperson is expected to be introduced by AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), Bankole Adeoye or his representative. The representative of Burundi will also make statement as the country concerned, pursuant to the PSC practice.

Since 2018, the PSC noted ‘the relative peace and stability in Burundi’. The communiqué of the 794th session of the PSC signaled the drawdown of AU’s operation involving Human Rights Observers and Military Experts when deciding to reduce the number of HROs and MEs and extend their mandate ‘bearing in mind the relative peace and stability prevailing in the country’. It is also worth recalling that the AU Assembly, at its 31st Ordinary session held from 1 to 2 July 2018 in Nouakchott, Mauritania, requested the Commission to ‘accompany Burundi during this phase’ as the country nears its 2020 national elections and contribute its part in strengthening of democracy and respect for human rights in the country.

Last time the Council discussed the situation in Burundi was during its 808th session convened on 19 November 2018. In that session, while recognizing the ‘relative stability’ that reigned in the country, the Council also requested the AU Commission to continue its engagement with the government with the view to support AU initiatives, notably its mission involving HROs and MEs.

Since then, one of the major milestones for Burundi, the 2020 elections, was concluded. The country held its elections in a context in which the incumbent, President Nkurinziza, honored the commitment not to run during the 2020 presidential elections. It is against this backdrop that tomorrow’s session of the PSC will consider the AUC Chairperson’s report on the HROs and MEs deployed in Burundi and decide on their future.

The HROs and MEs were deployed in July 2015 in line with PSC decision, at its 515th session held on 13 June 2015 at the level of Heads of State and Government. This was the first time that the PSC used the deployment of such kind of instruments as part of its efforts to prevent escalation of violence and facilitate the resolution of unfolding crisis in the country. As set out in the PSC decision, the HROs were mandated to monitor the human rights situation on the ground and report on the possible violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, whereas the mandate of the MEs was to support and verify the disarmament of militias and other armed groups.

The first deployment of the mission took place in July 2015 with the dispatch of an advance team consisting of only two HROs. Several HROs and MEs were then deployed in different batch, reaching its maximum strength in July 2016 with the dispatch of the final batch that brought the total number of the HROs to 45 and the MEs to 26. This was despite the initial plan to deploy 100 HROs and 100 MEs, with police component, by March 2017. A combination of lack of funds and recognition of the relative improvement of the situation in the country meant that the number of the HROs and MEs has continued to decrease staring in 2017, with only ten HROs left by the end of 2018. Currently, the number of HROs and MEs stands at eight and two, respectively.

As highlighted in the Report, the deployment was managed in two phases. In the first Phase (July 2015- August 2018), the activities of the mission focused on Human Rights monitoring, awareness creation and sensitization and advocacy. During this phase, 867 violations and infringements on the right to life; 882 violations and infringements on the right to physical integrity; 294 cases of torture and mistreatment; 230 rapes; 888 arbitrary arrests; 1243 illegal detentions; 169 violations of the right to freedom of expression and association; and 209 violations of the right to freedom of movement were reported. Beyond its contribution in limiting the escalation of the situation in Burundi, the engagement of the HROs registered some gains such as the release of 258 arbitrarily detained persons and supporting efforts at monitoring and reporting human rights violations as part of improving the human rights situation.

The second phase of the mission is characterized by the draw-down of the mission, accompanied by a shift of engagement focusing largely on capacity building, though its mandate remains unchanged. In this phase, several training programs were convened for key judicial and non-judicial actors, law enforcement agents and civil society organizations, with the primary aim of strengthening the technical capacity of those working in the human rights sector.

In respect of the Military Experts, the report of the Chairperson indicates that their activities have been much limited as they have not been given ‘free access to exchange with local military personnel’. As highlighted in the report, the government has been less receptive of the military component of the mission, which constrained the MEs from discharging their mandate fully. Despite these challenges, the Experts managed to conduct several visits of provinces over the course of 2019 and 2020. The Experts reported range of security related incidents in this period including armed invasion from neighboring border countries; homicide by unidentified gunmen targeting members of political parties and business individuals; grenade attacks; armed robberies; kidnappings; and violence between party militants.

According to the report of the Chairperson, 53 fact- finding missions were conducted; some 300 field trips were undertaken; and 623 advocacy activities were carried out resulting in the release of 623 detainees. The PSC is expected to take note of the achievements the mission registered under very difficult operating environment.

A major challenge for the operation of the HROs and MEs was the lack of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the government of Burundi. Despite repeated calls and expectations from the AU, Burundi did not sign the MoU. In the absence of this key instrument that outlines rights and duties of respective parties, the mission was forced to operate under a shaky legal ground. Indeed, this is identified as one of the issues from which lessons should be learned for purposes of similar future missions.

Despite the severe limitations that the lack of MoU has put on the operation of the HROs and MEs, the Burundi government did not actively impede their presence and activities. To the contrary, it facilitated their operation including the issuance of visas, diplomatic plate numbers, as well as approval of their work plan and field missions, etc. This has enabled them to carry out various activities. Building relationships with local authorities and collaboration from international organisations such as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees have also been found valuable in helping the HROs and MEs navigate their constrained context.

Currently, the most pressing challenge remains the way forward, as captured in the report of the Chairperson. It is to be recalled that the PSC extended the mandate of the mission ‘until further notice’, at its 797th session held at ministerial level on 24 September 2018. The report does not see room for the continued presence of the mission with its current mandates as the conditions that led to the deployment of the mission ‘are no longer prevailing.’ Indeed, Burundi no longer experiences the level of insecurity and violence that was prevalent for during the first phase of the deployment of the HROs and MEs. While there remain important human rights issues, it is not at the scale that necessitated the deployment of the HROs. It is to be recalled that United Nations (UN) Security Council removed Burundi from its agenda in December 2020.

For tomorrow’s session, the main issue in deciding the next steps rightly highlighted in the Chairperson’s report is the role that the AU could play in supporting post conflict reconstruction and stabilization efforts in Burundi, including implementation of transitional justice processes. This includes additionally, as noted in the report, the need for supporting the establishment, through the National Human Rights Institutions and the Ministry of Justice, of centers for supporting victims of human rights violations.

The expected outcome is communique. The PSC may take note with appreciation the significant improvements that Burundi is able to achieve in consolidating peace and stability. The Council is also likely to commend the Human Rights Observers and Military Experts for their dedication and meaningful contribution. The Council is further expected to heed to the key recommendations made by the Chairperson of the Commission in its report. In this regard, the PSC is likely to end the mandate of the Human Rights Observers and Military Experts by 31 May 2021, taking a cue from the Report of the Chairperson and in light of the positive developments witnessed in the country. As part of a transitional justice process to strengthen post-conflict stability, the PSC may also express support for the establishment of Human Rights Victims centers to redress some of the human rights violations and respond to the needs of victims. The PSC may also express its appreciation to the AU Commission for the initiative to incorporate in the planning similar future missions the lessons from the difficulties faced in the signing of the MoU and develop a manual for the management of its field missions with the view to properly plan, organize, coordinate and lead similar future AU Missions.

Briefing on DRC and Burundi


Date | 19 November, 2018

Tomorrow (19 November) the PSC will hold a briefing session on the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Burundi. Although DRC was the focus of the session when the monthly program of work was issued, Burundi was added following the high level regional visit that the Commissioner for Peace and Security, Smail Chergui, undertook to DRC and Burundi.

It is expected that the Council will receive a briefing from Chergui focusing on his recent visit to the two countries. Basile Ikouebe, AU Special Representative for the Great Lakes Region and Head of AU Liaison Office in Burundi is expected to provide statement.

On Burundi, the briefing is expected to provide updates on the prevailing the political, security, human rights and socioeconomic and humanitarian situation in Burundi. During his visit to Burundi, Chergui met with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Defense and the Interior. He also met, on an informal basis, the First Vice-President of the Republic, Gaston Sindimwo. Chergui was unable to meet with President Pierre Kkurunziza, despite the initial agreement for the meeting.

Since the last PSC meeting held in September 2018, one notable development have been the failure of the 5th round of the EAC led Inter- Burundian dialogue that the facilitator, former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, scheduled for 25 October 2018. The delegations of the government and the ruling party the National Council for the Defense of Democracy – Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) boycotted the talks. Government spokesperson stated that they needed to receive the list of participants and the agenda for the talks, insisting that no other issues other than the roadmap towards the 2020 elections shall be discussed.

In the past rounds, the government refused to recognize and engage in talks with some of the major opposition groups. In particular, the government rejects the opposition coalition Conseil National pour le respect de l’Accord d’Arusha pour la Paix et de l’État de Droit (CNARED, or National Council for the Respect of the Arusha Agreement and Rule of Law) claiming that they are associated with the May 2015 failed coup.

In the briefing, it would be of interest for the PSC to hear from Chergui on the outcome of the discussions he held in Bujumbura. In the light of the 19 September communiqué of the PSC, other issues on which member states would like Chergui’s reflections include the fate of the Inter-Burundian dialogue, the finalization of the long stalling conclusion of the Memorandum of Understanding relating to the operation of the AU human rights observers and military experts deployed to Burundi.

On DRC, it is expected that Chergui’s briefing will be accompanied by that of the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission and Head of the AU Liaison Office in the DRC, Ambassador Abdou Abarry. During his visit, Chergui met, among others, with the President Joseph Kabila. The visit focused on the political situation in the country focusing in particular on the preparations for the national elections. Other areas addressed include the deteriorating security situation in eastern DRC and the efforts for combating the spread of Ebola.

In the briefing to the PSC, it is expected that much of the focus would be on the preparations for the holding of the general elections scheduled for December 2018. There are two issues that are of major significance in this regard.

The first relates to the need and prospect for holding free and fair elections. Apart from the logistical and technical preparations that should be put in place, this would entail that
there is an even playing field and that the elections are conducted free from actions or omissions that undermine the credibility of the elections. Despite some of the positive steps notably the announcement that President Joseph Kabila will not stand for the election, concerns abound.

Confidence in the electoral process remains very low. Opposition and civil society raise major concerns about the independence and impartiality of the Electoral Commission. There are also concerns around the integrity of the voter roll With respect to the voting machines, there are concerns that it is susceptible for tampering, particularly if its reliable use is not adequately tested and independently verified. Major opposition parties as well as civil society organizations urge the Electoral Commission not to use the machines.

Other areas of concern, which would be of interest for the PSC, include reports of restrictions on political and civic freedoms including prohibition of public events and their adverse impact on the electoral process. There are reports of attacks against opposition groups and restriction of and heavy-handed response to protestors. Members of the opposition blame the security forces of using disproportionate force and arbitrary arrest. The resultant tension means that the country continues to witness recurring political instability.

In the light of the various issues surrounding the preparations of the elections, an issue on which PSC members would wish to get updates on the role of election observers.
Despite the challenges, there does not seem to be a call for the postponement of the national elections. In an interview to RFI on 16 November, Chergui warned that ‘delaying the elections would put us in a lot of uncertainties. It is to be recalled that the elections have already been postponed two times since 2016.

As part of the briefing, Chergui is also expected to update PSC members on the Ebola outbreak in DRC and ongoing efforts for addressing the outbreak. In this context, an issue of particular interest for the PSC is the implication of the dire security situation in eastern DRC both for the effort to address Ebola and for the planned elections.

The expected outcome is a communiqué. While on Burundi the communiqué is likely to reiterate the points raised in the communiqué of the 794th session of the PSC including on the stalling inter-Burundian dialogue and the finalizing the MoU on AU human rights observers and military experts, on DRC it is expected to highlight the need for the holding of the elections as scheduled under conditions that guarantee free and fair elections.

PSC Briefing on Burundi


Date | 19 September, 2018

Tomorrow (19 September) the PSC will have its session on Burundi, postponed from 6 September. In a first meeting of the PSC since October last year, the Council
will receive a briefing from Commissioner for Peace and Security, Smail Chergui on the political, security,
human rights and socioeconomic and humanitarian situation in Burundi. The meeting will also listen to
statements from Burundi, International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and Uganda, as the mediator of the East African Community (EAC).

The meeting is a follow up to the decision of the PSC from 27 October 2017 to receive a ‘more comprehensive briefing from the Commission and other relevant stakeholders on the evolution of the situation in Burundi’.

The major recent development that is linked with the situation in Burundi is the constitutional referendum that was held on 17 May 2018. Held in the absence of a settlement for the current crisis and in an atmosphere of violations and intimidation, the referendum that endorsed the proposed constitutional amendment with 73 percent of the votes cast is feared to lead to the erosion of the foundations of the peace settlement under the Arusha Accord while also further limiting the already fraught chances of negotiated settlement within the framework of the EAC led talks.

Following the 7 June announcement of the decision by the incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza that he would not seek re-election in the 2020 election, international and continental efforts to resolve the political standoff are increasingly focusing on the pace and success of the inter-Burundian dialogue, and reaching a political settlement within that framework to prepare the groundwork for the 2020 elections. Though various stakeholders warmly received the declaration of the President that he won’t seek another term at the end of his term, the lack of meaningful progress to break the political impasse in the peace talks has been an issue for concern. While a roadmap for the 2020 elections came out of the workshop of 36 Burundian political parties based in Burundi that took place on 3 August 2018, some key political parties boycotted the event.

Although Burundi did not feature on the agenda of the PSC since October last year, the AU has remained engaged and seized with the Burundi situation. As a guarantor of the Arusha Peace Accord, the AU expressed concern over the slow progress in the peace talks and the implications of the referendum on the constitutional amendment. Ahead of the referendum on 9 May, AU Commission Chairperson, Moussa Faki, sent an open letter to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, the official mediator of the talks on behalf of the EAC, calling on him to take action. The letter copied to the guarantors of the Arusha Accord—the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, the UN Secretary-General and the EU Commission – expressed concern about the erosion of the gains of the Arusha Accord since 2015 and warning that the constitutional amendments ‘will likely have far-reaching negative consequences for Burundi and the region’.

What is of particular interest for the PSC in this session is to get adequate appreciation of the implications of the May 2018 constitutional referendum on both the EAC led peace talks and the Burundi post-conflict peace settlement anchored on the power-sharing scheme of the Arusha peace agreement reflected in Burundi’s constitution. Although the constitutional amendment did not change the ethnic quotas—a key element of the Arusha Accord—of 60 percent Hutu and 40 percent Tutsi in the executive branch, the parliament and the judicial branch, it opens the possibility of future review following ordinary majority decision-making.

The intervention from the EAC during the PSC session is expected to provide updates to the PSC on latest developments in the peace process. While efforts are
now underway for reconvening the talks in Uganda, the EAC led peace talks have remained stalled for many months, facing boycotts on all sides and government intransigence. Major Burundian diaspora opposition forces were absent from the last round of talks, and the talks ended with no major progress or agreement. The government has expressed its willingness to participate in this next round of talks which is deemed by many
including the facilitation team as the ‘final’ attempt, although it indicated that this will be the last round of talks to take place out side of Burundi. Indeed, the EAC led mediation made very little progress. The major challenge since PSC’s last session has reportedly been the outstanding refusal of the Burundian government to recognize and engage in talks with some of the major opposition forces. Bujumbura rejects the opposition coalition Conseil National pour le respect de l’Accord d’Arusha pour la Paix et de l’État de Droit (CNARED, or National Council for the Respect of the Arusha Agreement and Rule of Law) claiming that they are associated with the May 2015 failed coup. The other challenge is the fact that the EAC is trying to mediate the political standoff with a divided house, and without an agreed roadmap among its member states.

The interconnectedness of the security complex in the region, the issue of migrants, and the sensitive topic of third termism and its implication in the national political contexts of its member states made EAC’s role a complex and difficult one.

What is of significant value for the PSC, apart from the interest to be updated about the current status of the EAC led peace talks and EAC’s efforts for reconvening the talks, is to have proper analysis on the chances of any breakthrough in the talks and the EAC’s plan on the next steps if its current efforts fail to produce progress in the talks.

The human rights situation, and the broader political climate will also be further areas of concern in the session. The PSC would be interested to hear about the political and human rights situation in Burundi, including the challenges facing the AU human rights monitors and policy options available for the PSC to enable the AU office deliver on its roles including with respect to human rights monitoring. Given the lack of breakthrough in the peace talks and the fragile political and security environment, this important presence of the AU in Burundi with human rights observers and military monitors should be maintained.

The signing by Burundi of the MoU on the presence of the mission of the human rights observers would be another issue for critical reflection during this PSC session.

Despite improved security since 2016, the tense and polarized political sphere, lack of a inclusive dialogue, the history of violent conflict, the difficult regional
security and power dynamics and worsening of the socio-economic situation make the marginal security improvement fragile. At the beginning of August 2018, three soldiers of the Burundian army were ambushed and killed and five others were injured in an attack that took place in the town of Gihanga, 15 km from the capital Bujumbura.

Apart from these incidents of sporadic violent attacks from armed groups, there remain concerns about the human rights situation in the country. As pointed out in the 2016 human rights investigation report of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights submitted to the PSC, there remain major issues of impunity among the state’s security forces. Militia groups still spread violence.

The human rights and humanitarian situation has faced further set backs due to the major challenges facing Burundi’s economy. In a report released very recently, the International Crisis Group (IGC) stated that ‘[i]n the wake of this political and security crisis, the country’s economy has shrunk at an alarming rate and socioeconomic progress made after the end of the civil war in the 2000s has been derailed’. The report particularly highlighted the worsening food and fuel shortages and the serious foreign currency reserves shortage the Burundian economy faced resulting in ‘new taxes and obligatory public ‘contributions’, forcing civil servants and ordinary Burundians to donate extra money to state coffers’. The report warned that the economic challenge could pull the country back to violence.

Given the gravity of the socio-economic situation, the PSC may also discuss the implications of the EU sanctions on Burundi and recommend for their lifting. This could address not only the immediate challenges facing the population but also it can potentially be used
to leverage the peace process in Burundi.

African members of the UN Security Council including Ethiopia have been expressing their concern on the political impasse and lack of progress in the EAC led mediation. Ethiopia has called for a re-launch of the dialogue under the auspices of the EAC with support of the African Union and United Nations. Tomorrow’s meeting may consider how to scale up PSC’s role in the mediation and the preparation of the 2020 elections.

The expected outcome is a communiqué. With respect to the EAC led peace talks, this communiqué may in particular call on the EAC and the AU Commission to elaborate a roadmap on how the two organizations pursue the peace process jointly. In terms of the role of the AU, the PSC could emphasize the need to keep the operation of the human rights observers and military experts in Burundi until the 2020 elections and set benchmark for reviewing their presence. The communiqué could reiterate the need for finalizing the singing of the MoU and indicate how the PSC plans to continue engaged on the situation in Burundi as well.



Date |25 March, 2004


The Peace and Security Council meeting in its Second Session, on 25 March 2004, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to consider the situation in Burundi, with particular reference to the mandate of the African Mission in Burundi (AMIB);

1. Recalls decision Central Organ/MEC/AMB/Comm. (XCI), adopted by the 91st Ordinary Session of the Central Organ of the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution at Ambassadorial level held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 2 April 2003, which mandated the deployment of the African Mission in Burundi (AMIB) for an initial period of one year subject to renewal and pending the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force to be mandated by the UN Security Council, as envisaged in the Ceasefire Agreements of 7 October and 2 December 2002;

2. Welcomes the significant progress made in the search for lasting peace and reconciliation in Burundi and notes with satisfaction the conclusion of the Pretoria Protocols of 8 October and 2 November 2003, as endorsed by the 20th Regional Summit on Burundi held in Dar-es-Salaam on 16 November 2003, as well as the marked improvement in the security situation in the country;

3. Considers that with these developments, a conducive environment has now been created for the deployment of a UN peacekeeping mission, as envisaged in the Ceasefire Agreements entered into by the Burundian parties;

4. Pays tribute to the Leaders of the Region including in particular, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and El-Hadj Omar Bongo Odimba, President of the Gabonese Republic, for promoting the regional peace initiative in Burundi. Further pays tribute to the Deputy President of South Africa, Mr. Jacob Zuma, for his tireless efforts to facilitate a peaceful and negotiated settlement of the conflict in Burundi;

5. Commends the crucial role played by the African Mission in Burundi (AMIB) in the consolidation of the peace and reconciliation process, inspite of the severe financial and logistics constraints facing the Mission;

6. Expresses its profound gratitude to the Troop Contributing Countries (TCCs) South Africa, Ethiopia and Mozambique – and to the countries providing military observers (Burkina Faso, Gabon, Mali, Togo and Tunisia), for their commitment and the sacrifices they have made to ensure the success of the Mission;

7. Further expresses its appreciation to Italy, Germany, the UK and Senegal for the financial contributions and support extended to AMIB, as well as to the EU, Belgium and Ireland that had made pledges of financial support to the Mission;

8. Recalls the appeal of the 4th ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the African Union, held in Addis Ababa, from 15 to 16 March 2004, urging the United Nations Security Council to authorize, as early as possible, the deployment of a peacekeeping force in Burundi;

9. Strongly, urges the UN Security Council to authorize the early deployment of a UN Peacekeeping Mission on the basis of the recommendations made by the UN Secretary General in his report to the Security Council on 16 March 2004 and in conformity with the primary responsibility of the Council for the maintenance of international peace and security;

10. Decides, in the meantime, to renew the mandate of AMIB for a period of one
(1) month, from 2 April to 2 May 2004, on the understanding that the UN Security Council will deploy a peace keeping Mission in Burundi before the end of this new mandate;

11. Appeals to all the Stakeholders in Burundi to continue to extend their fullest cooperation to AMIB to facilitate the implementation of its mandate;

12. Decides also to dispatch a mission of the Peace and Security Council to Burundi, with the view to expressing the appreciation of the Council and the African Union, to the Troops, Observers and other personnel serving with AMIB, as well as to assess the situation on the ground in Burundi;

13. Reiterates AU’s appeal to the PALIPEHUTU-FNL of Agathon Rwasa to work towards the speedy conclusion of a ceasefire agreement with the Transitional Government of Burundi (TGoB) and to join the peace and reconciliation process;

14. Appeals urgently to AU Member States and the international community at large, to provide financial and logistics support to sustain the activities of the African Mission in Burundi, pending the deployment of a UN peacekeeping mission;

15. Encourages the Transitional Government of Burundi and the Burundian parties to make maximum efforts to ensure the successful conclusion of the transitional period as provided for in the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement of 28 August 2000, including taking all the necessary steps for the holding of elections as envisaged in the said Agreement.