International community must take immediate action to prevent escalation of Burundi crisis: UN human rights body

Reuters/Jean Pierre Aime Harerimana

The UN Human Rights Council on Thursday made an urgent plea to take action on the crisis in Burundi, less than a week after attacks in Bujumbura, where at least 89 people were killed. Burundi’s representative to the UN’s top human rights body accused western countries of meddling in its affairs.


“We need to see more concrete action from the international community, if we are to see improvement on the ground. The international community must take urgent measures in order to deter further violence and prevent the current crisis from escalating”, said Adama Dieng, UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide.

He called on the international community to do more, adding that it can no longer pretend the ethnic-tinged violence has not been happening. Dieng cited statements from Révérien Ndikuriyo, the senate president, who used inflammatory and threatening language that could be construed as incitement to violence.

“Some of the language used was very similar to the language used before and during the genocide, in particular, the repeated use of the word, ‘gukora’, which means ‘to work’ in Kirundi, and was used to incite people to commit genocide in 1994 in Rwanda,” said Dieng.

The violence has escalated since April, after the controversial decision of President Pierre Nkrurunziza to run for a third term in office.

There was widespread condemnation from various members, who spoke of the ethnic dimension of the attacks on scores of ordinary citizens. Veteran Burundian human rights defender Pierre Claver Mbonimpa was present at the open meeting. He was brutally attacked and his son was killed during an outbreak of violence earlier this year.

The Burundi government should cooperate, said Dieng, and other countries need to give their full support to the Uganda-led mediation efforts.

The African Union commissioner for political affairs, Aisha Abdullahi addressed the council, adding that the AU has a military intervention force ready should the need arise.

“The capacity of the African Union for rapid deployment is now fully operational and ready to perform its mandate,” said Abdullahi.

Burundi replied with a stinging response, calling out “certain western countries” and asking why the extra-judicial killings and deaths of Burundians had not been tagged as “terrorism” as it has elsewhere.

“This session would be justified, according to the representatives of some western countries by the need to prevent large-scale massacres, perhaps even a genocide likely to take place in the near future in Burundi,” said Elisa Nkerabirori, the assistant to Burundi’s human rights commissioner in Geneva.

“This at the instigation of some foreign personalities you will all have recognised. Once again, I say that some words should not be used so readily. They are playing an increasingly bigger role in the crisis in Burundi,” said Nkerabirori.

She added that Burundi is expecting the international community to condemn strongly the radical opposition which organises attacks against Burundi from abroad, as well as recruiting young refugees to fight with armed groups “in a neighbouring country”.

“These statements are completely pathetic and disingenuous and indeed, irrelevant. They have been using all kinds of excuses to delay action, including here at the human rights council,” Nicolas Agostini, the representative to the UN in Geneva for FIDH, the International Federation for Human Rights told RFI, referring to the Burundian representatives’ comments.

“They are quite desperate actually and even isolated within the African continent. So the primary responsibility to address the situation and improve the human rights situation rests with the government of Burundi. So it’s now time to act,” he added.

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