BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) — Members of the U.N. Security Council should help investigate allegations of mass graves amid a wave of extrajudicial killings in Burundi, a former president said Friday as council members visited the turbulent country and met with its current president.
Council members "must not listen to any more excuses from the Burundi government, because President Pierre Nkurunziza has failed to protect Burundians. With the formation of armed rebellion, Burundi is headed for destruction," Jean-Baptiste Bagaza told The Associated Press.
Council members arrived in Burundi on Thursday to press for an end to months of deadly violence.
They met Friday with Nkurunziza, according to deputy presidential spokesman Jean Claude Karerwa. In a statement, the U.N. said council members also met with the country's vice president, foreign minister, religious leaders and representatives from the media and civil society groups.
Nkurunziza's decision to seek re-election last April touched off street protests that led to a failed coup in May and a rebellion that has left the country on the brink of civil war. Opponents and supporters of Nkurunziza in the capital, Bujumbura, have targeted each other in gun, rocket and grenade attacks, and the violence has spread to the provinces.
The U.N. estimates that more than 230,000 people have fled to neighboring countries since the street protests began and that 432 people have been killed. Human rights activists blame government security forces for extrajudicial killings.
Bagaza, who met with council members Friday, said he wants the U.N. to investigate extrajudicial killings and to help with the exhumation of bodies said to have been buried in mass graves.
British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft tweeted Friday from Burundi: "#UNSC members give united msgs to #Burundi For Min & VP: need deescalation, dialogue & deployment of int'l presence"
The U.N. statement said that Jamal Benomar, the U.N. special adviser for Burundi, was in the country on Friday "and will be engaged with all stakeholders to support dialogue and address security concerns."
A confidential report from the U.N. peacekeeping department to the Security Council, obtained this month by the AP, said U.N. peacekeeping troops should be deployed to Burundi only as a last resort if violence worsens. The report said the focus should be on promoting political dialogue and deploying African Union peacekeepers.
The African Union has proposed deploying peacekeepers, but Burundi's government has said it would fight them as invaders.
Council members left Burundi on Friday night for Ethiopia to meet with members of the AU's Peace and Security Council, the U.N. said.
Ssuuna reported from Kigali, Rwanda.