The United Nations human rights chief has spoken out against increasing violence in Burundi, where he warns “a complete breakdown of law and order is just around the corner.”
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein released a statement Friday saying a series of raids Burundian security forces conducted on December 11 against opposition supporters’ houses triggered human rights violations.
He said there were reports of gang-rapes of women during the raids and reports from locals that there were mass graves in the area.
Hussein said the reports set off “all alarm signals, including a dimension of growing ethnic crisis.”
Burundi’s army reported on December 12 that at least 87 people were killed in the capital, Bujumbura, by what it said were attacks on three military installations by unknown gunmen.
Eye witness accounts
But witnesses, who told reporters they emerged from hiding Saturday to find hundreds of corpses in the streets, said some of the victims had been dragged from their homes by security forces and executed. The army has declined to address those allegations.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday he is deeply concerned about Burundi’s instability and called on Burundi’s leaders to take steps to build confidence, including releasing political prisoners and lifting restrictions on civil society.
Peace talks set to be held in Tanzania were canceled earlier this month when the Burundian government refused to participate in talks that include the political opposition, which it accuses of “supporting violence.”
And last month, Burundi refused an offer by the African Union to send 5,000 peacekeepers to Burundi to stop the violence. The government said the AU troops could be attacked if they attempt to come without permission.
State of crisis
Burundi has been in crisis since late April when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would run for a third term in office, arguing that the constitution allows him to do so because he was appointed to his first term. The announcement set off political demonstrations that were met with violence by security forces.
Burundi’s constitutional court ruled in the president’s favor, and he won his third term in July elections boycotted by the opposition. The political turmoil has continued, and worsened, since then.