UN genocide adviser warns that Burundi risks civil war

AP News
Posted: Dec 08, 2015 11:59 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — There is a serious risk that if violence in Burundi isn't stopped there could be a civil war — and after that, "everything is possible," the U.N. special adviser on the prevention of genocide said Tuesday.

Adama Dieng told reporters he is using the occasion of the first international day to commemorate victims of genocide on Wednesday to call on Burundi's government and opposition to end the violence and negotiate a political solution to restore peace to the troubled African nation.

Dieng says he is also calling on Burundi's neighbors, including Rwanda and Tanzania, which has seen a large influx of Burundians fleeing the violence, to help.

President Pierre Nkurunziza's decision to seek a third term, which he won in a disputed election, has triggered months of violence, including an abortive coup attempt. At least 240 people have been killed since April and about 215,000 others have fled to neighboring countries, according to the U.N.

Burundi has a history of deadly conflicts between the country's Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups. Nkurunziza took power in 2005 near the end of a civil war in which 300,000 people were killed between 1993 and 2006.

U.N. human rights chief Zeid Raad al-Hussein told a group of reporters that the situation in Burundi today is "very dangerous."

"We're concerned about the rhetoric and the patterns of killing straying toward an ethnic sort of agenda, and this is something that I think the countries of the region as well as ourselves fear very greatly," he said.

Zeid said "the numbers of attacks against civilians seem to be going up" which means that at least some parties have "a provocative agenda."

If there is going to be any calming of the situation, he said, the ruling party's youth wing has to be disarmed, and the government's intelligence security force "must be brought under control."

Only then, perhaps, can "you make the argument that the other armed groups must disarm as well," the high commissioner for human rights said.