UN says Burundi gripped by terror, on brink of huge turmoil

UN Human rights chief says Burundi is gripped by terror and on brink of massive violence

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Al Hussein addresses the 31st session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The United Nations human rights chief told the Security Council on Friday that Burundi is afflicted by terrorism amid continued human rights violations and the small central African state is on the brink of a sudden escalation of a “massive proportion” turmoil.

UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein said that serious human rights abuses continue, despite some progress, including the release of some detainees, the reopening of an independent radio station and government cooperation with independent rights experts.

He said there are still reports of arbitrary arrests and detentions and there was an increase in reports of abuse and persecutions.

"Continued human rights violations and impunity for perpetrators mean that many of Burundi's people live in terror," Zeid said. "The country remains on the brink of a sudden escalation of violence to even more massive proportions."

In February, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited the impoverished country. Also in January, the 15-member Security Council made its second visit to the landlocked state in less than a year, where fears of an ethnic war have also led to an economic crisis.

"I expressed by profound worry that the potential spiralling of violence risks relapse into civil war," Ban told the Security Council on Friday. "I urged the government to take measures to address the continued violence and the impunity that fuels it."

Zeid called on the Security Council to persuade the Burundi government "to take significant steps towards real reconciliation and inclusive national dialogue."

The United Nations is facing intense pressure to show more effort in halting the crisis in Burundi, more than two decades after the 1994 genocide of ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus by the Hutu majority in neighbouring Rwanda. Both Rwanda and Burundi have similar ethnic composition.

"The international community must shift its approach from a focus on crisis response to a culture of early action and prevention," Ban said.

The European Union said on Monday that it had suspended financial support for the Burundian government after claiming that it can’t find a political solutions over the crisis.

Last year, the economy of Burundi shrank by an estimated 7.2 percent, a country which relies heavily on international aid and on export of tea and coffee.

Burundi has been involved in political violence since President Pierre Nkurunziza said last April that he would seek a third term, which his opponents said was illegal. At least 439 people have been killed and more than 250,000 have fled the country to seek refuge.

TRTWorld, Reuters