UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recommended Monday that the U.N. Security Council authorize a stepped-up U.N. presence in violence-wracked Burundi to promote a political dialogue but stopped short of calling for a full-fledged U.N. peacekeeping force.
In a letter to the council obtained by The Associated Press, the U.N. chief said "Burundi stands on the brink of another armed conflict that could unravel years of painstaking work to consolidate and preserve peace and have potentially disastrous effects in an already fragile region."
At least 240 people have been killed in Burundi since protests began in April against President Pierre Nkurunziza's ultimately successful quest for a third term. Witnesses say the killings, torture and human rights violations are the result of a government crackdown on opposition members that has spurred reaction from armed groups. But Burundi has a history of tensions between its Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups, like Rwanda which was the scene of a 1994 genocide.
Ban outlined three options for possible action in response to a Nov. 12 Security Council resolution condemning the violence: a U.N. peacekeeping force; a special political mission to focus on starting a national dialogue and promoting human rights; or a support team to U.N. special adviser Jamal Benomar to support political dialogue.
Ban recommended that the council authorize the support team, "given the existing political realities and security conditions on the ground." He added that the team would monitor the situation closely and provide reporting and analysis to facilitate U.N. planning efforts.
But Britain's U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, the council president for November, said the Nov. 12 resolution already authorized a support team and the council debate should be about what it does "on top of" the support team.
Rycroft said the Security Council is considering a trip to Burundi in December "to shine a spotlight" on the deteriorating situation in the country.
The secretary-general sent Benomar to Burundi and neighboring countries to assess possible next steps and Benomar briefed the council behind closed doors Monday on the possible options. Rycroft said he told members there has been no political dialogue.