Burundi: Despite Progress, Burundi Needs Assistance to Ease Poverty, Tensions - UN Official

Burundi continues to make steady progress in strengthening governance and recovering from recurrent strife, but given persistent political tensions and poverty, support from the international community is still required, a United Nations envoy said today.

"Lifting a country out of poverty and healing the wounds of long-term and cyclical violence are immense challenges," the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Burundi, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, told the Security Council in a briefing this morning. In particular, Mr. Onanga-Anyanga - who is also the head of the UN office in Burundi, known by the acronym BNUN - cautioned that, with critical elections on the horizon, sustained international political engagement would be required to effectively remedy the two-year standoff between the Government and opposition parties following the boycott of the 2010 elections. "The political standoff between the government and the extra-parliamentary opposition has led to tens relationships, sometimes with a violent edge to them, putting an unnecessary and regrettable strain on political space," he said. In order to keep supporting dialogue, reconciliation and consolidation of democratic governance, he urged the Council to heed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's recommendations to extend the mandate of BNUB for another year, consistent with the views of the Government of Burundi.

As the African country still faces challenges in the area of social and economic development, it also needed the support of all its partners to overcome the deep poverty that affected major portions of the population, the envoy noted. The private sector, he said, must also become more active in strengthening the country's productive sectors, including in energy, agro-industry and in enhancing infrastructure to carry out mineral resource exploration and exploitation.

He noted that over the course of the coming year, Mr. Ban intended to field a Strategic Assessment Mission to enable further consideration of the future UN presence in Burundi, in the effort "to help achieve the vision of consolidating a vibrant democracy where all citizens could live in peace and freedom," he said.

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