Failure to contain Burundi crisis risks regional war: UN expert
United Nations human rights expert Pablo de Greiff said the country, gripped by months of unrest surrounding a violent and discredited election, has “appallingly turned away” from the rule of law.
“I am raising alarm that the international community, regional and international organisations included, cannot afford to simply stand by and wait for new mass atrocities to recur,” De Greiff told the UN Human Rights Council, according to a written copy of his speech.
“This would risk a major conflict in the Great Lakes region, the proportions of which no one can predict,” added De Greiff, the UN’s special rapporteur on truth, justice and reparations, reporting on an official visit to the country.
Burundi sits in the heart of what has been one of the world’s most volatile regions over the last three decades.
Neighbouring Rwanda was destroyed by genocide in 1994, while the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo has seen waves of political and ethnic violence since the late 1990s.
Burundi’s civil war killed at least 300,000 people from 1993-2006 and sporadic violence has continued since, with fears mounting of a renewed conflict, which could have ripple effects throughout the region.
“The situation is deteriorating and the (rights) council must play its role of sounding the alarm,” a French diplomat, who requested anonymity, told AFP in Geneva.
De Greiff said “a resolute and immediate” response was required of the international community and the Human Rights Council in particular.
President Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial but successful re-election bid was marred by widespread abuses, including torture, with opposition supporters also implicated in serious offences.
Prominent military officers, politicians and activists have been attacked or killed in the country that has increasingly shown signs of unravelling.
The French diplomat said the rights council was working on a Burundi resolution, led by the European Union and some African states.
De Greiff insisted such a move was necessary “so as to prevent the recurrence of the worst imaginable violations.”