Burundi tells UN to close local office by January

President Evariste Ndayishimiye

Burundi President Evariste Ndayishimiye who came to power earlier this year.

Photo credit: Tchandrou Nitanga | AFP

Burundi has told the United Nations secretary general that the office of the organisation's special envoy must shut by the end of the year.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres recently asked that the office remain in operation for one more year owing to a "fragile" situation in the country.

The envoy's office was established in 2016 to track tension in Burundi, which had plunged into a political crisis a year earlier when then President Pierre Nkurunziza ran for a disputed third term.

In a notice seen by AFP and confirmed by a senior Burundian diplomat, the foreign affairs ministry notified Guterres of "the formal closure and liquidation of the office of the special envoy to Burundi on December 31, 2020."

UN officials in New York said the body did not intend to comment immediately.

The UN sought to extend the envoy's mission by a year despite a positive change on the part of new President Evariste Ndayishimiye, who took office after Nkurunziza died in June, describing the situation in Burundi as still "fragile".

The foreign affairs ministry replied by commenting that a UN "political presence" was no longer "pertinent" given that the situation was now "calm and stable" and a recent election had led to an "historic political transition".

"Our decision is sovereign and irrevocable, we no longer need an office that fosters the idea of a crisis that exists only in the minds of certain foreign powers," ministry source said.

The source was likely referring to the European Union and come western countries.

A UN diplomat said on condition of anonymity that Burundi's decision was possibly aimed at "negotiating a more flexible political relation with the UN."

In its note, the Burundi foreign ministry said that "socio-economic development is the only leading domaine that requires assistance" from the UN.

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