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Published:March 20th, 2006 17:46 EST
Burundi needs close monitoring

Burundi needs close monitoring

By Leon (Producer) Leon

Improvements in human rights, good governance and other areas are urgently needed in conflict-ridden Burundi, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a report released today, calling for close monitoring of the impoverished country in the countdown to the planned withdrawal of the United Nations mission there by the end of this year.

In his latest report to the Security Council on the UN Operation in Burundi (ONUB), covering the situation since November, Mr. Annan noted that “significant challenges remain,” with the “most immediate task facing the Government is ending the 12-year conflict and restoring durable peace.”

“After more than a decade of devastating conflict, the security and economic situation in Burundi remains extremely fragile, requiring massive commitment of all involved,” the Secretary-General pointed out.

“Urgent improvements are required in the areas of good governance, transparency and accountability and respect for human rights, as well as the continuation of major economic, security and political reforms,” he said, stressing the importance of the active involvement of the region, bilateral partners and the UN.

The conflict, along with recurring drought and frequent displacements, had driven “two thirds of the population into extreme poverty and thousands are still facing serious food shortages,” he said.

Describing the humanitarian and social crises in Burundi as “acute,” Mr. Annan emphasized that the plan to fully withdraw the ONUB by 31 December had been developed with the Government, “following its specific and strong request for the early disengagement of the United Nations peacekeeping presence.”

He noted that the “initial tasks” of the UN operation had been completed, but warned that “given the severity of the challenges facing the country…the possibility of a relapse remains strong,” and recommended altering the withdrawal time depending on the situation on the ground.

“In that regard…it will be prudent to continue to monitor developments closely and assess the situation in the coming months, in consultation with the Government and major stakeholders,” he pointed out.

“Should the situation at that time so require, the pace of the ONUB drawdown could be adjusted accordingly in full consultation with the Government,” Mr. Annan concluded.

Earlier this month the UN said that 2.2 million people in Burundi -- including refugees and returnees – will need food aid in 2006 because of poor rains, crop disease and poverty.

Source: The UN