The deteriorating political crisis in Burundi is a serious concern to the United Nations, Abdoulaye Bathily, the special representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Central Africa, said yesterday.
Bathily, who also heads the UN Office for Central Africa (Unoca), made the remarks after holding talks with President Paul Kagame in Kigali.
“The situation has deteriorated recently and this is of concern to us,” he told reporters.
He added: “This escalation of violence was predicted by many observers and my fear is that, if nothing is done about this, it could deteriorate further. This is why it is important for all the stakeholders, both from within Burundi itself and from outside, including the region itself, to do something about it.”
Bathily was a member of the joint international facilitation team on Burundi which made recommendations on the political impasse in the country ahead the country’s controversial presidential election on July 21.
Burundi is going through an unpredictable political crisis that started in April when President Pierre Nkurunziza was picked by his CNDD-FDD ruling party as its flag bearer paving the way for him to seek a contentious third term in office.
His opponents said the move violated the constitution and a 2000 peace deal that ended a 12-year civil war and brought Nkurunziza to power in 2005.
But the president insisted he had all the right to seek another term in office since he had been picked by lawmakers and not through a popular vote for his first term.
The decision saw protesters storm the streets of Bujumbura for about two months, leaving at least 100 dead in violent crackdown by security forces, while hundreds others were arrested especially in the wake of a failed coup attempt in May.
There were also several high-ranking defections, including a vice president, judges, among others.
Nkurunziza was last week pronounced the winner of the July 21 election but this has followed by a spate of fatal attacks that have killed or wounded a few prominent figures.
On Sunday, President Nkurunziza’s former security chief and right-hand man Gen Adolphe Nshimirimana was killed in an ambush in the capital Bujumbura, while early this week, a leading human rights activist and Nkurunziza’s critic, Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, was wounded in a gun attack.
Need for dialogue
Bathily said the escalation in violence was a danger for the entire region, pointing out that dialogue was the best way out of the situation.
“Time now is for peace but not this senseless killing, retaliation, reprisals. This is giving a negative image of Africa,” he pointed out.
The army generals behind the coup attempt have warned of an all-out-war to force Nkurunziza out of power, while Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was chosen by the East African Community to mediate the on-and-off talks between the warring parties.
There are concerns that the violence could split the east African nation down ethnic lines and lead to another civil war.
Unoca works to support efforts of Central African nations to consolidate peace and prevent conflict, as well as to tackle cross-border challenges such as arms trafficking and organised crime.
It works closely with the Economic Community of Central African States (Eccas), a regional bloc which Rwanda recently rejoined.
Other Eccas members are Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, the DR Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Sao Tome and Principe.
Rwanda is currently home to at least 71,000 Burundian refugees who fled from the turmoil in the neighbouring country over the last few months, while an estimated 100,000 crossed into Tanzania with DR Congo and Uganda also hosting thousands each.