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Burundi on brink of civil war, says UN

December 17, 2015

UN officials have warned of civil war in the African country as violence escalates. The international community is considering whether to deploy peacekeepers to avert another genocide in Africa.

Burundi Gewalt und Tote - Polizist
Image: Reuters/J.P. Aime Harerimana

Addressing an emergency session of the UN Human Rights Council, High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein warned that Burundi is on the brink of civil war.

"A frightened, uninformed population on a diet of hate speech and paranoia may be recruited to a patch of violence of either side," al-Hussein said. "Burundi is at a bursting point, on the very cusp of civil war."

Violence erupted in the capital when President Peirre Nkurunziza announced in April that he would run for a third term.

The move triggered a backlash from opposition lawmakers and civil society groups, which said it went against the country's constitution that ended more than a decade of civil war in 2005.

"An inclusive political dialogue is needed urgently. We must do all we can to prevent mass violence and act decisively should it erupt," UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Wednesday.

On Friday, insurgents staged coordinated attacks on military attacks, leaving nearly 90 dead, said an army spokesman. The attacks were an apparent response to the military opening fire in opposition neighborhoods.

"What we have seen over the past few days is chilling," Ban added.

Averting genocide

More than 300 people have been killed and 20,000 displaced by this year's violence. The country's demographic makeup - consisting of a Hutu majority and Tutsi minority - mirrors that of neighboring Rwanda, which witnessed genocide in 1994.

The latest developments have prompted the African Union (AU), UN and United States to consider deploying peacekeepers to the central African country.

"Africa will not allow another genocide to take place on its soil," said the AU Peace and Security Council.

There is "an urgent need for action to stop the killings," the council added.

ls/sms (AFP, Reuters, dpa)