UN alarmed at killings in Burundi and threatens sanctions

The UN Security Council expressed alarm on Wednesday over reports of torture and extrajudicial killings in Burundi and about an increasing number of refugees who are fleeing the tiny East African nation, now totaling over 416 000 people.

A presidential statement reiterated the council’s intention to pursue sanctions against all those inside and outside the country “who threaten the peace and security of Burundi.”

Burundi has been plagued by sporadic violence since April 2015, when President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to seek a third term led to street protests. Nkurunziza won another term in disputed elections three months later and remains in power, but Burundi has stayed unsettled and more than 500 people have been killed, according to the UN.

At least one armed group has announced a rebellion and sporadic attacks have sparked fears of a return to civil war. In 1993, civil war erupted when Tutsi paratroopers assassinated the country’s first democratically elected president from the Hutu majority. A cease-fire was declared in 2006 but it took several years for fighting to end, and 300 000 people died.

Harassment and intimidation of civil society

The Security Council said it remains “deeply concerned” at the political situation and the government’s failure to implement a resolution adopted last year calling for the deployment of 228 UN police and human rights monitors. The government also refused to allow the African Union to send 5 000 peacekeepers, and the council reiterated its concern that the AU has so far been able to deploy only 40 human rights observers and eight military observers.

The council underscored “its deep concern regarding the continued worsening of the humanitarian situation, marked by nearly 202 000 internally displaced persons, 3 million people in need, and more than 416 000 Burundians seeking refuge in neighbouring countries.”

It strongly condemned human rights violations including extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, arbitrary arrests, torture, restrictions on fundamental freedoms, and harassment and intimidation of civil society including women’s organisation and journalists.

Council members strongly condemned statements from inside and outside the country “that incite violence or hatred towards different groups in Burundian society, including calls for forced impregnation of women and girls”.

Viable processĀ 

They welcomed the condemnation of these statements by Nkurunziza’s ruling party and called on the government to ensure that those responsible are held accountable.

The council commended regional efforts to help find a political solution and strongly backed the East African Community’s decision to launch an inclusive inter-Burundian dialogue, stressing that this is “the only viable process for a sustainable political settlement in Burundi”.

But council members said they remain “deeply concerned over the lack of progress in this dialogue” and urged all parties “to take further measures to overcome the current political impasse.”

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