Norway would first like to congratulate the Government of Burundi for the work done in producing this second biannual review report. It is never easy to carry out a self-analysis, but the way this process has been undertaken, by bringing together all stakeholders, is to be commended.
This 2nd biannual review of the implementation for the Burundi Strategic Framework for Peacebuilding represents an important step in our combined efforts to consolidate peace in Burundi.
Norway fully supports the recommendations presented at today’s meeting in support of peacebuilding in Burundi.
Norway wishes today also to pledge our full support to the important initiatives taken recently by the Government of Burundi and the FNL to end hostilities and seek peace. Since the military confrontations in April last year, the progress towards reconciliation has been essential.
Norway commends all parties involved in the signing of the declaration of 4 December last year, which contained i.a. obligations to release all political prisoners and prisoners of war, to restart the DDR process, and the acceptance by FNL that the name Palipehutu FNL was in violation with the constitution of Burundi. Likewise, we are fully behind the recommendations made by the meeting of Special Envoys and the Government of Burundi 17 January.
However, at the same time as we recognize that major obstacles have been overcome in the pursuit of peace, we have also been concerned about the slow implementation of the Ceasefire Agreement. This has been an object for discussions between Norway and Burundi at the highest level.
It is now paramount that all parts of the agreement of 4 December is implemented without delays, and we appeal to the Government of Burundi and the FNL to continue to show the necessary political will to speedily complete the ceasefire implementation process. In this connection we take note of the call by the Peacebuilding Commission today that Burundi’s partners do whatever they can to support the present peace process in a concrete way.
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 release children associated with its movement without further delay so that they can be reunited with their families or placed in care, and receive appropriate support according to their needs.
Increased efforts are also needed to broaden the respect and protection of human rights and enforce the rule of law. The establishment of the National Independent Human Rights Commission 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 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.
When discussing the situation in fragile states it is easy to focus exclusively on problems and challenges. Indeed, they are daunting. Yet, we must never forget the many small and sometimes important steps that are constantly being made towards consolidation of peace. In Burundi both the Government and other national stakeholders including civil society must be commended for all their efforts to follow up in a concrete manner the peacebuilding agenda as established through the work of the Peacebuilding Commission.
In this connection we also wish to commend the Regional Peace Initiative, in particular Uganda and Tanzania, the South African Facilitation and the African Union and the South African Facilitation for their indispensable role in support of durable peace in Burundi. This is an excellent example of Africa’s capacity to provide solutions to pressing issues on their own continent.
The Norwegian Government has been pleased to contribute to the work of the Peacebuilding Commission since its inception, and in particular to peace consolidation in Burundi. We pledge our continued and active support for peacebuilding in Burundi, both bilaterally and through multilateral channels.
Thank you, Mr Chairman.