Burundi rivals welcome UN move to end violence

map_of_burundiBurundi’s government and opposition welcomed Friday a United Nations resolution calling for urgent talks and laying the groundwork for peacekeepers to pull the country from the brink of “possible genocide”.

“To us, it is quite favourable,” Foreign Minister Alain-Aime Nyamitwe said of the UN plan. “We were pleasantly surprised because it is more balanced than the alarmist text tabled by France.”

Burundi’s opposition Cnared coalition also expressed “satisfaction” at the resolution.

Cnared spokesman Jeremiah Minani, who like many of the group has fled into exile, said it was the first resolution “that recognises the seriousness of the crisis” facing Burundi.

Burundi descended into violence after President Pierre Nkurunziza launched a controversial bid for a third term in office in April. At least 240 people have been killed in Burundi and more than 200,000 have fled the tiny landlocked nation.

But Minani also suggested the government in Bujumbura, “probably did not understand that the resolution threatens sanctions and to dispatch peacekeepers.”

The UN Security Council on Thursday unanimously adopted an amended French-drafted measure that strongly condemned the wave of killings, torture, arrests and other rights violations in the central African nation.

The resolution requested that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon present options to the council within 15 days on “the future presence of the United Nations in Burundi” to help end the crisis.

UN officials are drawing up plans including rushing UN peacekeepers from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Burundi, or deploying a regional force under the African Union, if the violence spirals out of control.

International alarm has been mounting after repeated appeals to Nkurunziza to enter into a dialogue with the opposition fell on deaf ears.

A wave of hate speech fuelling attacks has drawn comparisons with Rwanda where tensions between the same ethnic mix of Hutu and Tutsis exploded in the 1994 genocide.

The UN resolution warns it is ready to consider “appropriate measures” but a specific reference to “targeted sanctions” against Burundian leaders who incite attacks was removed in the final draft.

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