US Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa Thomas Perriello has warned that Burundi is at risk of suffering a genocide, days after President Barack Obama imposed sanctions on the country's public security minister and three other people.
Rwanda, which endured a genocide in 1994, has also expressed alarm about the situation in Burundi and its regional implications.
Perriello said genocide is "certainly a risk but it is not yet present reality." We have seen very "dangerous signals" like extrajudicial killings which might make this conflict more ethnic in nature, he added.
The political crisis in the country has led to the deaths of almost 200 people and at least 500 being injured since late April, with more than 200,000 people fleeing to neighbouring countries, according to UN reports.
The US has imposed sanctions against those it deems to be worsening the crisis.
"We continue to investigate individuals who play a particularly significant role in destabilizing Burundi or contributing to escalation of violence or repression," Perriello said.
The sanctions are the latest in a series of measures imposed by the United States, the European Union, the African Union and the United Nations to ensure consequences for those who undertake repressive actions.
Perriello added that the US wants to be very clear that there will be consequences for those both on the government side as well as those who attempted to stage a coup in May.
Violence in Burundi has been steadily increasing since April when Nkurunziza announced he would stand again as president, despite a constitutional two-term limit, arguing his first term did not count because he was chosen by MPs. He was re-elected in July, which Burundi's opposition says contradicts the terms of the peace deal and the constitution signed in 2006 after ten years of civil war.