Burundi rivals welcome UN bid to end violence

13th November 2015, Comments 0 comments

Burundi's government and opposition welcomed Friday a UN resolution calling for urgent talks to pull the country from the brink of "possible genocide" as European nations advised their citizens to leave.

"To us, it is quite favourable," Foreign Minister Alain-Aime Nyamitwe said of the UN plan, which includes the possibility of peacekeepers being deployed.

Burundi's opposition Cnared coalition also expressed "satisfaction" at the resolution.

Cnared spokesman Jeremiah Minani, who like many of the group has fled into exile, said it was the first resolution "that recognises the seriousness of the crisis" facing Burundi.

On Friday, the European Union said it would "evacuate temporarily" the families of staff in Burundi while Belgium's foreign ministry advised its citizens to leave.

A foreign ministry spokesman said that around 500 Belgians were currently in Burundi.

The EU said it would reduce its staff "to an essential level" but that its office would continue to operate normally.

Burundi descended into violence after President Pierre Nkurunziza launched a controversial bid for a third term in April. At least 240 people have been killed and more than 200,000 have fled the tiny landlocked nation.

- Fears of renewed war -

The UN Security Council on Thursday unanimously adopted a French-drafted resolution that strongly condemned the wave of killings, torture, arrests and other rights violations.

The African Union's Peace and Security Council is due to meet at its headquarters in Ethiopia later on Friday to discuss the crisis.

The UN resolution requested that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon present options to the council within 15 days on "the future presence of the United Nations in Burundi" to help end the crisis.

UN officials are drawing up plans including rushing UN peacekeepers from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Burundi, or deploying a regional force under the African Union, if the violence spirals out of control.

The deployment of a UN force in Burundi would require the approval of authorities in Bujumbura or a decision from the Security Council under a Chapter 7 resolution, which authorises the use of force.

Burundi's war from 1993 to 2006 left some 300,000 people dead as rebels from the majority Hutu people clashed with an army dominated by the minority Tutsis.

International alarm has been mounting after repeated appeals to Nkurunziza to enter into a dialogue with the opposition fell on deaf ears.

Bujumbura has rejected any negotiations with the Cnared opposition, which it accuses of both involvement in a failed coup in May and backing guerilla-style attacks since.

"The resolution speaks clearly of a dialogue with peaceful interlocutors - which automatically excluded anyone implicated in violence or in the coup attempt," Nyamitwe added.

But Cnared insisted it is not involved in any violence and has "opted for a political fight", Minani said.

A wave of hate speech fuelling attacks has drawn comparisons with Rwanda where tensions between the same ethnic mix of Hutu and Tutsis exploded in the 1994 genocide.

The UN resolution warns it is ready to consider "appropriate measures" but a specific reference to "targeted sanctions" against Burundian leaders who incite attacks was removed in the final draft.

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© 2015 AFP

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