France wants UN police force in Burundi

22nd February 2016, Comments 0 comments

France is proposing that a UN police force be deployed in Burundi to help quell months of violence, according to a draft statement presented to the UN Security Council.

The draft text obtained by AFP on Monday calls on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to come up with options on a UN police deployment in about 15 days.

Ban earlier Monday arrived in Bujumbura for talks with President Pierre Nkurunziza on resolving the 10-month crisis that has left more than 400 people dead, and driven over 240,000 across the border.

France hopes the statement will be adopted before a group of African presidents including South Africa's Jacob Zuma travels to Burundi on Thursday for crucial talks with Nkurunziza.

"We want to seize upon this convergence of international efforts to break the cycle and try to generate positive movement in Burundi," said French Ambassador Francois Delattre.

Delattre said the specific mandate of the new UN police force has yet to be defined but that its role would be "to prevent further violence and foster respect for human rights."

After a government security crackdown in December, witnesses came forward with accounts of at least nine mass graves in and around Bujumbura where police allegedly dumped scores of bodies.

Burundi has been in turmoil since President Pierre Nkurunziza announced plans in April to run for a third term, which he went on to win.

Nkurunziza, who has been in power since 2005, has rejected an African Union proposal to send 5,000 peacekeepers to his country, describing it as an "invasion" force.

During a visit by Security Council ambassadors to Burundi in January, Nkurunziza dismissed concerns that his country could slide into ethnic killings, similar to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

Burundi has the same Hutu-Tutsi mix as Rwanda.

France hopes that the statement will lay the groundwork for a UN resolution authorizing the police deployment and endorsing serious political talks, mediated by Uganda and backed by UN envoy Jamal Benomar.

© 2016 AFP

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