The United Nations adopted a resolution on Thursday calling for urgent negotiations in Burundi between political factions and laying the ground for peacekeepers to be sent to the country to stop the violence there from further escalating.
The resolution was unanimously adopted by the UN Security Council and was drafted by France, which condemned wave of killings, torture, arrest and other human rights violations in the country.
The resolution called on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to suggest options within 15 days on "the future presence of the United Nations in Burundi" to help stop the crisis.
UN officials are rushing to draw plans for the deployment of troops either from UN peacekeepers in Democratic Republic of Congo or deploying regional African Union troops to Burundi.
"We know that in the worst case what we are talking about is a possible genocide and we know that we need to do everything that we possibly can to prevent that," said British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft.
"The Security Council must fully embrace its role of prevention... and not let the genie of ethnic violence out of the bottle," French Ambassador Francois Delattre told reporters.
Push for Peace Negotiations
The United Nations, European Union and African Union made a joint call for peace talks between Burundi’s government and the opposition, expected to be held outside the country in Uganda or Ethiopia.
"No effort can be spared to achieve an end to the violence and to foster a political solution," said EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, African Union chairman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson among others.
The US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, said a stronger effort for political negotiations was "absolutely critical" to solve the crisis.
"There must be a robust political process, and that process must be invigorated," Power said.
Rycroft suggested that economic sanctions, peacekeeping troops and political efforts were some of the means available to prevent atrocities from occurring.
The deployment of UN peacekeeping troops in Burundi would require the approval of the country's government or a final decision by the Security Council under a chapter 7 resolution, which allows the use of force.
The council said that "appropriate measures" would be taken in the resolution, but a specific reference to "targeted sanctions" against Burundian leaders responsible for violence was taken out of the final draft.
The final draft changes was made after Russia and some African countries argued that the threat of sanctions would not be helpful in bringing about peace.
Burundi has been hit with a cycle of violence which started in April, caused by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid to win a third term.
Nkurunziza’s victory has been met by protests and violence in the country. Dozens have been killed since the elections, including Burundian opposition figures and supporters, as well as a former army chief and a former intelligence chief. The President of the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detainees, Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, was shot and seriously wounded by gunmen in the country in August.
At least 200 people have died in total in the latest violence and nearly 200,000 people have been displaced by the political crisis. Fear of mass violence or even genocide is rising in the central African country.
There was a civil war in Burundi from 1993 to 2006 and approximately 300,000 people died in the conflict between rebels from the country's majority Hutu population and an army dominated by the Tutsi minority.