U.N., ICC join chorus of alarm over Burundi crackdown

1384

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the International Criminal Court (ICC) joined a growing chorus of concern on Friday over a deteriorating security situation in Burundi and urged its authorities to avoid further exacerbating tensions.

President Pierre Nkurunziza has announced a Saturday deadline for people to hand over illegal firearms or be treated as enemies of the state in a bid, the government says, to stem months of violence and protests over his election to a third term in office this year.

Critics, including U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, have warned the move could “trigger widespread violence” if security forces start searching homes for weapons and opposition figures.
“The secretary-general underlines the responsibility of the Burundian authorities to protect the civilian population, regardless of political affiliation…,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
“Inflammatory rhetoric is reprehensible and dangerous (and) will only serve to aggravate the situation in the country.”

Dujarric also expressed alarm at the discovery of corpses of civilians who appeared to have been summarily executed.

France said the U.N. Security Council would convene on Monday to discuss the situation in Burundi.

WAR CRIMES

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said anybody who incited acts of mass violence in Burundi was “liable to prosecution before the court” in The Hague.
“Should any conduct in Burundi amount to war crimes, no-one should doubt my resolve … that the perpetrators do not go unpunished,” Bensouda said.

Nkurunziza’s ultimately successful re-election bid in July has helped plunge Burundi into crisis, a decade after it emerged from a civil war. Critics say his move violated the constitution, though he cited a legal ruling that allowed it.

Regional and world powers have grown increasingly concerned that the clashes and killings in Burundi may presage a repeat of the ethnic violence that culminated in the 1994 genocide in neighbouring Rwanda.

Tens of thousands of people have fled in recent months for Rwanda, which has a similar ethnic mix, and other countries.

Opposition politicians in Burundi say they face a crackdown and droves of people have been seen leaving their homes in the capital Bujumbura in recent days.
“We call on the international community to send us troops … Tomorrow may be too late,” said Charles Nditije, chairman of the opposition UPRONA party and one of the few opposition leaders who remains in Burundi.

U.S. ambassador Power issued a statement saying the president of Burundi’s senate, Reverien Ndikuriyo, had told officials: “You have to pulverize, you have to exterminate – these people are only good for dying.”

Ndikuriyo’s office was not immediately available to comment on his reported quote.

But a spokesman for the Burundi government, Philippe Nzobonariba, accused Power and the Americans of bias.
“She has never been concerned about the barbaric acts committed by their friends, the insurgents,” he said.