Burundi accused the United Nations on Wednesday of spreading rumours about planned constitutional changes that critics say could upset the country’s delicate ethnic power balance and possibly lead to civil war.
Government ministers said that warnings last week by the U.N. mission in Burundi (BNUB) about possible violence were baseless and possibly spread to justify an extension of its mandate beyond its December expiration date
BNUB warned last week that leaders of tiny central African state who have manipulated young people to stoke violence could face international prosecution if human rights abuses are committed.
Also last week, the United States urged Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza to drop the planned changes that might allow him to run for a third term. They have stirred the country’s worst political crisis since a 12-year civil war ended in 2005.
“These are rumours, there is no distribution of weapons and security situation is calm throughout the whole country. We don’t know where BNUB has picked up this news,” Public Security Minister Gabriel Nizigama said in parliament.
“We think BNUB is finding ways to stay in Burundi beyond its term which terminates by December this year, by spreading over wrong information about increasing violence in the country,” Interior Minister Edouard Nduwimana added.
Burundi’s political stand-off has raised the risk of another explosion in a volatile region already grappling with unrest in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Central African Republic.
Government spokesman Philippe Nzobonariba said on state radio that the U.N. should be ready to shoulder the blame for any fallout from their statement last week.
“We ask U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to tell his special representative Parfait Onyanga to be ready to assume responsibility for consequences that could result from this false rumour and that could create new tension and divide the people of Burundi,” he said.