Norway commends the Government of Burundi, the Palipehutu-FNL, the leaders of the regional initiative and the facilitator South Africa on the positive outcome of the meeting in Bujumbura on 4 December where the Government and Palipehutu FNL signed a declaration which contains: the release of all political prisoners and prisoners of war, to restart the DDR process and assemble all combatants from Palipehutu FNL in assembly areas a soon as possible, the provision by the government of 33 posts in the state administration for FNL, and the acceptation of FNL that the name Palipehutu FNL is in violation with the constitution of Burundi and must be changed before registering as a political party. The deadline is already 31 December this year.
We have, like our partners, been concerned about the slow implementation of the Ceasefire Agreement and this has been an object for discussions between Norway and Burundi at the highest level. This was demonstrated by the recent visit to Oslo by President Nkurunziza and my follow-up visit to Bujumbura where I met the President and his team. It is now paramount that the new agreement of 4 December is implemented without delays.
Norway underlines the importance of addressing the particular needs of child soldiers that have been part of the armed conflict and we urge the FNL-Palipehutu and FNL-Dissidents to separate the children from their groups so that they can be reunited with their families or placed in care, and receive appropriate support according to their needs.
The establishment of the National Commission on Human Rights is encouraging. We have however serious concerns about recent arrests of journalist, and members of the opposition and civil society. In order for free and fair elections to take place certain conditions need to be fulfilled: freedom of assembly, irrespective of whether the political party is newly established or not, freedom of political debate and freedom of the press.
We welcome that the new proposed penal code will contain provisions on the abolition of the death penalty, and we congratulate the Government of Burundi for this important move. On the other hand, we are very concerned about the proposed amendments to the penal code which could criminalize homosexual conduct, could end penalties for state agents to abuse human rights and could limit the responsibility of the state to address spousal violence. We call on the authorities concerned to review the proposed amendments.
As co-chairs of the Round Table in 2007, Norway and the Netherlands attach great importance to the development in Burundi. We collaborate closely in following the situation and we expect that the Government of Burundi acts in a manner that preserves the political freedom.
The role of the Regional Peace Initiative, in particular Uganda and Tanzania, the South African Facilitation and the African Union has been invaluable in support of durable peace in Burundi. Their continued participation is indispensable. We also call on South Africa to continue the provision of protection (for FNL) for a transitional period. In this respect, we would especially thank Minister Nqakula and ambassador Mamabola, for continuing their efforts to bring the process in Burundi to a successful end, in spite of the fact that you both have been called to new important missions.
With special reference to the recent Regional Initiative meeting on 4 December and to encourage the rapid implementation of the decisions made, Norway has the pleasure to announce a contribution of NOK 20 million (approx. USD 2,7 mill) to the DDR process in Burundi for 2009 (channelled through the World Bank). Norway urges other countries to support the DDR process in Burundi as this is vital for peace, security and stabilisation in the country.