UN police force proposed for Burundi | Africa | DW | 18.04.2016
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UN police force proposed for Burundi

In Burundi, four ruling party members died when unknown assailants opened fire in a bar. The death toll from political violence continues to mount as the UN discusses plans for a new police mission.

Four members of the Burundi's ruling CNDD-FDD party were killed when armed men dressed in hoods and military fatigues stormed a bar in Buriri province.

The attack was directed at ruling party supporters who had gathered for an environmental clean-up exercise and brings to ten the number killed over the past week.

Most than 400 people have died in political violence, which began when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he was running for a third term in April 2015. A failed coup in May was followed by elections in July, which Nkurunziza won, though observers said they were flawed. A quarter of a million people have fled to neighboring countries since the crisis started.

Burundi Ban Ki-moon & Präsident Pierre Nkurunziza

Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at a meeting in Bujumbura in February 2016

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said on Sunday (17.04.2016) that the situation in Burundi was "very delicate." He blamed Nkurunziza for failing to resolve the conflict.

"So far, he [Nkurunziza] hasn't shown any indication that he wants a genuine dialogue with the opposition and the international community to find a solution," Annan said.

Three options

A day earlier, it was disclosed that current UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was proposing three options for a new UN police mission to Burundi.

In a report to the UN Security Council, Ban said that dispatching a force of 3,000 "was the only option that could provide some degree of physical protection to the population," but it would take months to prepare and would present logistical challenges.

A second option would be to send 228 UN police officers to work with human rights officials and possibly African Union monitors to provide early warning of deteriorating conditions, but not offering any protection to civilians.

Ban also said the Security Council could decide to send a group of 20 to 50 officers who would assess the Burundi police and "help bring about concrete and measurable improvements in the respect for human rights and the rule of law."

Africa political and security analyst Yolande Bouka told DW's AfricaLink that the best option would necessarily be the larger force. "There is definitely a need for the robust protection of civilians, given the state of the police and that some negative elements of the police have been accused of perpetrating crimes against humanity," she said.

Carina Tertsakian, a researcher for Human Rights Watch (HRW), said in an interview on the group's website that "the Security Council needs to persuade the Burundian government to agree to the deployment of a substantial international police presence." She added that their deployment in neighborhoods most affected by the violence might not solve the crisis immediately, "but would at least reduce the number of abuse committed by both sides and act as a deterrent."

Burundi Gewalt und Proteste

Violence in Burundi persists despite efforts by mediators to broker talks between government and opposition

The Burundian government has told the UN it was ready to receive 20 unarmed police experts, but would oppose any "large" UN presence.

Yolande Bouka said "the question at this point is how long we allow Burundi to dictate the terms of early warning or intervention."

'Invasion force'

In January, the African Union abandoned plans to deploy a 5,000-strong peacekeeping force after the Burundian government rejected what it described as an "invasion force."

Earlier this month, US Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, Democracy and Labor Tom Malinowski said there was no question that human rights abuses were continuing, including the detentions of people perceived as opposition sympathizers, reports of people 'being disappeared' and serious attacks by armed groups. Malinowski, speaking after on his return from a visit to Burundi, described the situation as extremely grave.

"We do not want to see a repeat of catastrophes that have befallen this country in the past and other countries in the region" he said.

Burundi has a long history of coup attempts and civil war. It has the same ethnic mix - Hutu majority, Tutsi minority - as its neighbor Rwanda which is still haunted by the 1994 genocide.