Remarks at the Security Council Stakeout Following a Meeting on Burundi

By Africa Regional Media Hub

Ambassador Samantha Power

U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations

U.S. Mission to the United Nations

New York City

December 11, 2015


Good evening, everybody. Thanks for your patience. I've already given you the press elements from the Security Council's session on Libya a while ago. Just now we discussed the recent very, very worrying developments in Burundi.

The Council heard a briefing from the Secretary-General's Special Advisor on Burundi Jamal Benomar and we agreed on the following press elements:

The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the recent attacks by unidentified assailants in Bujumbura, and urged all involved actors to refrain from violence.

The members of the Security Council, as expressed in the UN Security Council resolution 2248 adopted on November 12th, reiterated their deep concern regarding the protection of civilians and stressed the urgent need to end impunity in Burundi. They also expressed their readiness to consider further steps as necessary.

The members of the Security Council demand that all armed groups put aside their arms and cease all forms of destabilizing activities in order to end the cycle of violence and retaliation.

The members of the Security Council appealed to the government of Burundi, as well as all political actors, to resume an inclusive dialogue without delay, to prevent further violence in Bujumbura and throughout the country.

To this end, the Security Council reaffirmed their support for international engagement, particularly by the East African Community, the African Union, and the UN, in calling for restraint and in pursuit of a political resolution to the crisis.

The Security Council expressed its support for the special session on Burundi being called in the Human Rights Council. The Security Council reaffirmed the critical importance of AU and UN contingency planning.

And the Security Council reaffirmed their intention to consider additional measures against all Burundian actors whose actions and statements contribute to the perpetration of violence and impede the search for a political solution.

And I can only take, unfortunately, a couple of questions because I'm racing. But I do want to say, in my national capacity, that we call on the EAC and President Museveni to immediately convene the government and the opposition for a high-level political dialogue. Without this dialogue it's going to be very, very challenging to defuse the situation, and it has to be defused or it really risks evolving into mass violence. If that process cannot immediately move forward, the international community — including the UN — must itself look into alternative options to get the parties to the negotiating table, lest the situation continue to deteriorate. To be clear, those who fail to act in the midst of a deteriorating situation are also at fault. Similarly, the situation on the ground compels us to focus squarely on how the international community can protect civilians from mass violence, including planning for the possible deployment of a regionally-led peace support operation.

Finally, one update on our Program of Work for the month: a thematic debate on human trafficking in situations of conflict — you may have seen this written about, we've just announced this. This will be the first time the Council will hold a Council debate dedicated to this very painful issue that has affected so many individuals and families around the world. The meeting will look critically at how human trafficking manifests itself in conflict situations and it will seek to identify actions that the Security Council, the UN system, and Member States can take to combat this crime. We look forward to your attention to this groundbreaking event.

And I'll take a few questions. And I'll try to keep my answers — if you can keep your questions very brief, we'd appreciate it. Thank you.

Reporter: Thanks. On Burundi, Madam Ambassador, you've spoken from this podium for the need for a return to political dialogue. Has the time come — given the attacks we witnessed this morning — for the Council to institute some measures?

Ambassador Power: Well, as you know, the United States itself has sanctioned four individuals that we deemed responsible for this escalating situation. We certainly believe accountability for anybody involved is essential. As you know, not all Council members have that view. But they did just now express readiness to look at additional measures and it is very clear that the set of steps that we have taken over these many months, really, because this is a chronicle foretold, right — a slowly escalating, violent situation — have not been sufficient. Because you're not seeing things getting calmed, you're not seeing people exercise more restraint. If anything it's getting worse. It seems as though the proliferation of arms around the country is becoming even more of a problem. And so these contingency planning discussions are really important. You heard my statement in my national capacity about our belief of what is increasingly needed, and we think sending a signal to those individuals associated with attacks like the ones that occurred overnight or attacks by the government against civilians, that kind of accountability is essential intrinsically and it's essential because of the way that it can have the effect of deterring others.

Reporter: I have a question off topic. We saw the Iraqi ambassador go in to visit you. Did he deliver a letter or request a meeting regarding the Turkish troops?

Ambassador Power: He did deliver a letter, the letter was in Arabic, and I was chairing the Burundi meeting at the same time, so I ducked out to receive the letter. So I can't give you details on that. But in my capacity as President of the Security Council he has asked me to circulate that letter, which I will very quickly do. And in terms of a meeting, I don't have anything to report. He didn't make any specific requests. But it is very clear that the situation has not been resolved. He expressed, I'm sure what he's expressed to all of you, which is growing alarm — his government's growing alarm — at the situation. We reiterated our position which is that any troops deployments in Iraq need to be with the consent of the sovereign Iraqi government. And I reassured him that that was America's very strong position and urged that the dialogue continue between the Iraqi and Turkish governments to find an amicable way out of this difficult situation.