By Tim Marshall
Diplomats are now openly talking about the possibility of genocide in Burundi after the wave of killing, torture and arrest which has spread across the country since the re-election of President Pierre Nkurunziza for a third term in July in a vote described by the UN as neither free nor credible.
A French drafted UN resolution aimed at halting the slide towards what may be mass slaughter has been unanimously passed. It calls for urgent talks but also paves the way for a UN or African Union peacekeeping force to be sent to the central African country. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon will now present options to the Security Council within 2 weeks.
The UK Ambassador to the UN, Matthew Rycroft, said “We know that in the worst case what we are talking about is a possible genocide and we know that we need to do everything we possibly can to prevent that”.
More than 240 people have been killed and over 200,000 have fled since July’s election. Memories are still fresh of the 1993 – 2005 civil war in which almost 300,000 people were killed as the majority Hutu population clashed with the minority Tutsi dominated armed forces.
Burundi’s constitution does not allow a third term for a president but Mr Nkurunziza argued that for one of his terms he was elected by MP’s and therefore was entitled to seek another mandate from the people.
The UN is considering sending peacekeepers in from neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. However, this would require either the authorization of the government in the capital Bujumbura, or a ‘Chapter 7’ Security Council resolution authorizing force.
There are fears that Rwanda may become involved in fighting as its President Paul Kagame has accused Burundi’s leaders of carrying out ‘massacres’ against its own people. Rwanda also has an ethnic mix of Hutu and Tutsi people. In the run up to the 1994 Rwandan genocide there was an alarming rise in incitement to violence in the media. This is now said to be happening in Burundi.
2nd poorest country in the world.
85% of population is Hutu, 14% is Tutsi.