Burundi: 500 dead and violence continues, government rejects UN police deployment


Lefe Regis – Africa correspondent

The Government of Burundi has firmly rejected the United Nation‘s offered deployment of 228 international police to the country, insisting that its security forces remain in control of the country.

According to the U.N. more than 500 people have now lost their lives as violence continues to escalate across the country. Opposition groups are protesting President Pierre Nkurunziza’s third term. Mr. Nkurunziza denies that his election was undemocratic since opposition groups had boycotted the election. The opposition claims that even though Mr. Nkurunziza won by almost 70% of the vote, that police intimidation, poll booth shuttering, and ballot stuffing are responsible for his generous victory margin and are calling for his resignation.

The waves of violence are fuelled by the statements of Mr. Nkurunziza who has accused foreign journalists of supporting the cause of “terrorists”. Mr. Nkurunziza had previously declared his belief that neighbouring Rwanda was behind what he labelled an “insurrection” by supplying Burundian rebels with arms and training.

Security forces have clamped down on opposition rallies. Photo: AP

The Brief:

  • More than 500 people have been killed
  • At least 270,000 people have fled the country
  • The government has rejected the African Union’s offer of 5000 peacekeeping troops
  • The government has rejected the UN’s offer of 228 police from an international task-force. It said it will not accept “more than 50” police officers.

Related Coverage:

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Congo: Transforming the role of the United Nations

Burundi sits in the centre of one of the most unstable regions within Africa. Graphic: BBC News

An escalating crisis:

The spread of violence in the region has renewed fears that the country could return to a state of civil-war such as the one between 1993 – 2006 that left up to half a million dead.

President Nkzurunziza has done little to end the fighting aside from cracking down on opposition groups with his security forces. He has denied that the situation is sliding out of his control, focusing instead on his belief that Rwanda to the north is responsible for funding and supplying the opposition. Old ethnic divisions between Tutsi and Hutu are quickly eroding the fragile peace established in 2006; the two countries have fought various wars and proxy-wars since de-colonisation.

With a quarter of a million people now having fled, there are genuine concerns about how to solve this latest humanitarian crisis if the fighting worsens. The Burundi government’s insistence on blocking foreign intervention, aid, and journalists has done little to resolve the looming civil-war.

Burundi police chase protesters in the town of Bujumbura. Photo: http://bit.ly/2ayZGFy

Burundi’s situation is a powder-keg. The government’s insistence that everything is ‘OK’ belies the turgid ethnic violence that awaits as the situation worsens.

The African Union and United Nations desire to deploy peace-keepers is an admirable first step to normalising the situation. Unfortunately, it seems that Burundi’s government still needs to take a hard look at the underlying reasons for the continuing violence in the region.

More to come.

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