“The only enemy that remains a threat to citizens, in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is common to all of us, is poverty,” Evariste Ndayishimiye declared.
The Head of State was speaking at UN Headquarters on the third day of the high-level week of the General Assembly. After being held virtually last year, this year’s gathering features “hybrid” activities that include leaders in person along with virtual participants.
The Burundian leader noted that his country celebrates, in 2021, six decades of independence and membership in the United Nations.
“It is, therefore, a moment to remember that the United Nations played a big role because since the end of the First World War, Burundi was managed under the mandate of the League of Nations and then of the United Nations,” he said.
A moment for hope
Pointing to the theme of this year’s debate, A Presidency of Hope, he said it has special meaning for Burundians.
“Not only in the face of the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also the consequences of these repetitive crises that have been perpetrated in the country with complete impunity,” he explained.
To overcome these difficulties, he said his Government identified a number of priorities in the National Development Plan of Burundi, PND 2018-2027. He called the initiative “an ambitious and transformative program that can accelerate the process of socio-economic development.”
On the issue of good governance and social justice, he said “the fight against corruption, economic embezzlement and the fight against impunity are among the priorities of the Government.”
Turning to peace and security, he said it is “undeniable” that international community has had some successes fighting terrorism, but it must recognize that it is “far from having developed a common, adequate and effective strategy to annihilate this scourge.”
“Beyond the necessary military action, the effective fight against terrorism includes a fight against radicalization, which is rooted in ignorance, poverty, youth unemployment and illiteracy,” he argued.
He added that his Government is concerned about the proliferation of terrorism in the region, including in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where extremist groups “recruit unemployed young people who blindly kill peaceful and innocent citizens.”
“I remain convinced that these groups pose a threat not only to our region but to all humanity”, he said.
It is in this context that, since 2007, Burundi has made military and police contingents available to the United Nations and the African Union, he informed. These officers continue to serve in countries such as Somalia and the Central African Republic.
Human rights issues
Mr. Ndayishimiye also made a note about the UN Human Rights Council, saying of that body’s work that “any tendency to single out Burundi by attaching special human rights mechanisms to it is simply counterproductive.”
“In practice, the Government has focused on the protection of human rights, respect for democratic principles, freedoms of opinion, expression and the press,” he guaranteed. “A lot of effort has been made thanks to the establishment of an almost permanent dialogue between political parties, the media and the public authorities.”
He also noted that his country welcomes refugees and Burundians who return to their country. He explained that, since July 2020, more than 75,000 refugees returned voluntarily, adding to more than 50,000 who returned without going through specialized UN agencies.
“With peace and security restored, Burundian refugees, including political actors, are returning overwhelmingly and are greeted with love and dignity,” he assured.
Lastly, he welcomed the “historic decision” of the Security Council and the Peace and Security Council of the African Union to remove Burundi from their political agendas in recognition of the return of peace.