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Ban appeals to Burundian authorities to consider postponing elections

26 June 2015 – Closely following political and security developments in Burundi, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today encouraged the country's authorities to consider the postponing of the elections scheduled for July 15.

"Deeply concerned over the prevailing political and security environment in Burundi, the Secretary-General appeals to the Burundian authorities to seriously consider the proposal put forward by the Joint International Facilitation Team to postpone the elections further in order to create a conducive environment for inclusive, peaceful and transparent elections", reads a statement made available this morning by the UN Spokesperson.

Such a decision would be in line with the recent decisions of the African Union Peace and Security Council and the Summit of the East African Community, notes the statement.

Mr. Ban's call comes ahead of a just-scheduled meeting of the UN Security Council later today on the situation in Burundi.

"The Secretary-General reiterates his appeal to all Burundian political leaders to address the current political crisis through dialogue in the larger interest of the people of Burundi, in order to consolidate peace and security and further strengthen national reconciliation."

The statement commends the efforts of the Joint International Facilitation Team, comprising the East African Community, the African Union, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and the United Nations to assist the Burundian parties "to reach consensus on the way forward to ensure peaceful and credible elections in their country."

"In Burundi, the neglected violent past has become a major obstacle for the country's future," saidlast week Pablo de Greiff, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence.

Warning that the governing party and its youth militia use violence to limit freedom of speech and hate speech to obtain certain electoral outcome, the independent expert stressed the utmost importance to disarm those youth militias.

Burundi's political turmoil started in early April when President Pierre Nkurunziza said he would stand for a third term, a decision denounced as unconstitutional by the opposition.

"Voters must be free to support or to oppose any political party…without undue influence or coercion of any kind which may distort or inhibit the free expression of the elector's will," Mr. de Greiff underscored.

Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency warned today that increasing numbers of people are fleeing Burundi ahead of next weeks' polls, with thousands seeking refuge across the central African State's borders.

"More than 600 people are now crossing each day into Rwanda, between 200 and 300 into Tanzania, and a further 150 to 200 into Uganda," Adrian Edwards, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) pointed out, warning that the exodus was likely to climb still higher.

So far, nearly 127,000 Burundians have registered as refugees. However, many more are believed to have fled the country, but not registered. Latest official figures show 62,000 in neighbouring Tanzania, 45,000 in Rwanda, 8,855 in Uganda, 10,590 in Democratic Republic of the Congo, and even 400 in faraway Zambia.

In anticipation of more arrivals, relocation efforts have been sped up over the last days. In May, UNHCR and 17 partners launched the Regional Refugee Response Plan for $207 million to protect and assist up to 200,000 Burundian refugees. Despite the deteriorating situation in Burundi, the plan has realised only 13 per cent of its target, leaving crucial services, such as water, health and sanitation, seriously underfunded.

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