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Burundi

Volume 596: debated on Tuesday 9 June 2015

8. What steps his Department has taken to address the security situation in Burundi and to support the emergence of conditions conducive to inclusive and peaceful elections in that country. (900182)

The Minister for Africa, the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend East (James Duddridge), has called on all parties to end the violence and respect the principles of the Arusha agreement. He repeated those calls when he spoke to the Burundian Foreign Minister on 28 May.

I thank the Minister for that answer. He and the Minister for Africa will be aware that just this week civil society representatives have called for the replacement of the UN special envoy who is meant to be mediating the dialogue. The Burundi electoral commission’s legitimacy is also being questioned, and it has now scrambled together a date for an election in circumstances that are particularly adverse, with repression still at play, refugees unable to return and armed youth groups not disarming. What will be the Africa Minister’s message to international partners and the Burundi Government at the African Union meeting?

We need to focus on the Arusha agreement. The UK Government are extremely concerned about the instability in Burundi that the hon. Gentleman articulates and are working actively within the region, with the African Union and the international community, to resolve the crisis.

23. The instability is principally being caused, of course, by President Nkurunziza’s desire to avoid the constitutional term limits, which threatens not only Burundi but the region as a whole. What discussions has my hon. Friend had with Ministers in Burundi’s neighbouring countries about their attitudes to that extension to the constitutional term limits? (900197)

First, I acknowledge my hon. and learned Friend’s interest in and understanding of that part of the world. He is absolutely right that there needs to be a regional solution, and I believe that the only way forward for future stability involves President Nkurunziza stepping down and a political solution in line with the Arusha principles.

The situation in Burundi reminds us of the risk of mass atrocities and the need for the international system to be more effective in preventing them and responding to them. What is the Foreign Office’s attitude to the French initiative, which proposes veto restraint by the permanent five members of the United Nations Security Council in cases in which mass atrocities might have occurred?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to illustrate that the situation is about what is happening not just in Burundi but in neighbouring Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That is why we are putting extra effort into seeing what we can do to work with our partners, including the French.

Is it not the case that the office of the President, the Opposition parties and the constitutional court in Burundi need to ensure that peace breaks out, not violence, and that all parties need to agree a new date for the presidential and parliamentary elections?

My hon. Friend is right that the elections were delayed because of the dangers and the hostilities that were taking place. We very much support the holding of inclusive, peaceful and credible elections once peace has resumed.