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UN: Burundi on Brink Again

Burundian President of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Pierre Clave Ndayicariye announced the preliminary results for the municipal and legislative elections in Bujumbura, Burundi, July 7, 2015.

A senior U.N. official is warning progress in Burundi is in danger of slipping away as President Pierre Nkurunziza presses ahead with controversial plans to seek a third term.

U.N. Deputy Political Chief Taye-Brook Zerihoun told the Security Council the security situation in Burundi has been tense and volatile since legislative and communal elections were held on June 29. Opposition parties boycotted that vote and are calling for Nkurunziza not to run for a third term, which they say is unconstitutional.

“Burundi is on the brink again.The grave danger the country faces should not be underestimated, given the increasing polarization and the apparent choice of Burundian leaders to put personal interests before those of the country,” he said.

Burundi is still recovering from a 12-year civil war that ended in 2005 and killed an estimated 300,000 people.

In a report out this week, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern about what he called the “limited political space and the deterioration in the human rights environment” in the wake of the current political crisis.

U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Raad al-Hussein told the Council via video link from Geneva that “the risk to human life, and to regional stability and development, is high.”

But Burundi’s U.N. Ambassador Albert Shingiro downplayed the recent violence, and said the June vote was free, transparent and marked by an “enormous” voter turnout.

He did not mention the possibility of Nkurunziza withdrawing his candidacy, but said his government would consider a second postponement of the planned July 15 vote.

“So we would be very happy to compromise a postponement of a week towards 21 or 22 [July] would be totally fine pursuant to the constitution and we would be okay with that type of a postponement,” Shingiro said.

He said Burundian and regional leaders are discussing this possibility. But opposition leaders have said what they really want is for the president not to run for re-election.