News / Africa

    UN Under Pressure to Show It Can Help End Burundi Violence

    A Burundian soldier walks infront of residents during a demonstration against the Rwandan government in Burundi's capital Bujumbura, Feb. 20, 2016.
    A Burundian soldier walks infront of residents during a demonstration against the Rwandan government in Burundi's capital Bujumbura, Feb. 20, 2016.
    Reuters

    When U.N. Security Council envoys flew to Burundi in January to try to end months of violence, the central African country's leader flatly rejected their offer of help and hundreds protested against what they saw as meddling.

    A month later, with fears of a new ethnic conflict growing a decade after a civil war ended, diplomats say Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will step up peace efforts by visiting Burundi for talks on Tuesday with President Pierre Nkurunziza.

    The U.N. is under growing pressure to show it can halt the bloodshed in Burundi, two decades after the 1994 genocide of ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus by the Hutu majority in neighboring Rwanda, which has a similar ethnic make-up.

    But Nkurunziza has rejected a proposal for the 54-nation African Union to send in peacekeepers and shows no sign of changing the message he gave the U.N. Security Council envoys in January -- that Burundi is "up to 99 percent secure."

    FILE - Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza, center, and U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power, left, speak to the media in Gitega, Burundi, Jan. 22, 2016.
    FILE - Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza, center, and U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power, left, speak to the media in Gitega, Burundi, Jan. 22, 2016.

    "He's in total denial about what is going on," Amr Aboulatta, Egypt's ambassador to the U.N., said of the Jan. 22 talks at a hilltop residence outside the capital Bujumbura.

    Aboulatta suggested the Security Council, whose purpose is to maintain international security, must now be "more sensitive, more cautious and take things step by step."

    But Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has made clear the need for action is pressing in the landlocked country of 10 million.

    "What Burundi needs urgently is an inclusive broadened mediation, and an expanded international presence ... we have a responsibility to try again and again to convince the president to stop rejecting offers of international support," she said.

    Death toll rising

    The U.N. says at least 439 people have been killed in the violence, which began after Nkurunziza's decision last April to seek a third term, and that the number could be "considerably higher." About 240,000 have fled the country.

    Since a failed coup last May, Bujumbura has been hit by frequent shootings and grenade attacks aimed at civilians and police, who have frequently mounted raids at night on districts in the capital which the government says are hotbeds of anti-Nkurunziza sentiment.

    The United Nations is investigating reports of mass graves, the crisis has triggered foreign aid cuts and Burundi, one of the world's poorest countries, is facing an economic disaster.

    This has prompted calls from human rights groups for the U.N. to be more assertive in Burundi, where 300,000 people were killed in the 1993-2005 civil war. Like Rwanda, Burundi's population is about 85 percent Hutu and about 15 percent Tutsi.

    "The Security Council needs to quickly shift from early warning to preventive action. It should convince the Burundian government to accept a strong U.N. political mission with an international police component," said Philippe Bolopion, Deputy Director for Global Advocacy at New-York-based Human Rights Watch.

    Urging talks

    Diplomats say Ban will push Nkurunziza for political talks and a greater international presence, but it is not clear what the United Nations can do if the president continues to refuse outside help.

    A U.N. political mission in Burundi stopped operating in 2014 at the government's request and Ban's lead official on Burundi, Jamal Benomar, has only a small team on the ground.

    FILE - Burundi opposition members sit during peace talks at Entebbe State House, east of Uganda's capital Kampala, Dec. 28, 2015.
    FILE - Burundi opposition members sit during peace talks at Entebbe State House, east of Uganda's capital Kampala, Dec. 28, 2015.

    Nkurunziza has also rejected the African Union's proposal to send in 5,000 peacekeepers because he says it would amount to an invasion.

    "At some point the world has to wonder what you're hiding if you're adamant about preventing any independent eyes and ears on the ground," Tom Perriello, U.S. Special Envoy to Africa's Great Lakes Region, told Reuters.

    UN peacekeepers?

    After asking the U.N. peacekeeping department to prepare contingency plans in case Burundi spirals out of control, the Security Council is now likely to request options for sending U.N. police, seizing on a proposal by Russia, diplomats say.

    "The idea of U.N. police -- and the format, the conditions, the modalities of course must be discussed -- is potentially a productive idea. That is one of the ideas we must work on," French U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre told reporters.

    Russia initially opposed action over Nkurunziza's decision to run for a third term because it saw it as a constitutional matter of a sovereign state.

    But after violence worsened following his victory in a disputed election last July, Russia and China – both veto-holding permanent members of the Security Council – backed a resolution in November aimed at boosting a U.N. presence and threatening "additional measures" against those fueling the crisis.

    Russia's deputy U.N. ambassador, Petr Iliichev, said his understanding was that Nkurunziza had expressed interest in the possibility of international assistance for Burundi's police.

    FILE - U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, second right, speaks with other U.N. Security Council ambassadors during a meeting with the Burundian president at his residence outside Bujumbura, Jan. 22, 2016.
    FILE - U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, second right, speaks with other U.N. Security Council ambassadors during a meeting with the Burundian president at his residence outside Bujumbura, Jan. 22, 2016.

    "We should not lose the momentum because there is some kind of openness from the Burundi government," he told Reuters. But he added: "If we move very attentively, very cautiously, it will be better for everyone."

    But Burundi's U.N. ambassador, Albert Shingiro, made clear any potential U.N. help would be limited to assisting in the  development, or "capacity-building", of the police and monitoring the border with Rwanda.

    "We don't need an armed mission, it would be a civilian mission for capacity-building ... it would be a small, limited number," he told Reuters.

    Targeted sanctions

    The United States and the European Union have imposed targeted sanctions on several Burundians over the crisis, but the African Union and the Security Council have not followed suit. Iliichev said there was no need for U.N. sanctions.

    The crisis in Burundi has raised fears of violence spreading beyond its borders, heightening tension with Rwanda over accusations that it is meddling.

    Kigali has denied reports of Burundian refugees being recruited and trained in Rwanda, with the aim of ousting Nkurunziza, though the United States says the reports are
    credible.

    Some diplomats say the reports could be a way to convince Nkurunziza to accept a greater international presence by suggesting it could help monitor the border with Rwanda.

    You May Like

    Russia Sees Brexit Impact Widespread but Temporary

    Officials, citizens react to Britain’s vote to exit European Union with mix of pleasure, understanding and concern

    Obama Encourages Entrepreneurs to Seek Global Interconnection

    President tells entrepreneurs at global summit at Stanford University to find mentors, push ahead with new ideas on day after Britain voters decide to exit EU

    Video Some US Gun Owners Support Gun Control

    Defying the stereotype, Dave Makings says he'd give up his assault rifle for a comprehensive program to reduce gun violence

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora