Burundi rejects U.N. mediator after critical report about elections

Reuters News
|
Posted: Jul 05, 2015 10:58 AM

By Clement Manirabarusha

BUJUMBURA (Reuters) - Burundi on Sunday rejected a second U.N. diplomat named to help resolve the country's political crisis, saying a critical report about last week's parliamentary elections demonstrated bias.

The tiny east African country plunged into turmoil in late April when protests erupted in response to President Pierre Nkurunziza's bid for a third term. The opposition boycotted the June 29 parliamentary election and says it will boycott the July 15 presidential vote.

The rejection of Abdoulaye Bathily came in response to a U.N. report saying its mission in Burundi had observed restrictions on media freedoms, arbitrary detentions and acts of violence around the June 29 vote.

Burundi's ruling coalition blamed Bathily for the report.

"He has produced a critical report not reflecting reality on the scene, saying that elections of June 29 were not ‘free and credible’, while (the ruling coalition) believe that these elections were 'transparent, fair , free and credible and were held in peace and security,'" it said in a letter to the U.N. secretary general.

The coalition accused Bathily of exhibiting a "lack of neutrality".

Bathily's appointment was announced on June 21.

The previous U.N. mediator, Said Djinnit, left the role after only a few weeks after criticism from the opposition that he was biased in the government's favor, a charge he dismissed. Djinnit remains U.N. special envoy to the Great Lakes region.

Dozens of people have been killed since the crisis erupted in Burundi.

In addition, about 140,000 people have fled the country, stoking concern in a region with a history of ethnic conflict, particularly in Rwanda, where 800,000 people were killed in 1994.

New Zealand's U.N. Ambassador Gerard van Bohemen, president of the U.N. Security Council for July, said last week the 15-member body expressed concern "that the minimum conditions for free, fair, transparent and credible elections were not met" in the June 29 vote.

(Editing by Edith Honan and Andrew Roche)