Burundian crisis poses ‘devastating’ risk for region, says AU

November 5, 2015, 4:39pm

Security guards surround Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza as he addresses a crowd during campaigning in the capital, Bujumbura, on June 28. Picture: AFP PHOTO/LANDRY NSHIMIYE  

By Business Day Live

ADDIS ABABA — The African Union (AU) has warned of its "deep concern" for troubled Burundi and the wider region if rivals do not resolve political differences peacefully.

AU Commission chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said she was worried at "the continuation of acts of violence and the increase of statements that are likely to further aggravate the current situation."

If the crisis is not solved, it would "create conditions for more instability, with devastating consequences for Burundi and the whole region," she said in a statement late on Wednesday.

The central African nation has seen months of violence triggered by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s successful bid to win a third term in office, with the government calling the gangs of gunmen "criminals".

The UN has warned that Burundi risks sliding back into civil war after a dramatic rise in killings, arrests and detentions, with more than 200,000 refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries.

Some 200 people have been killed in Burundi since violence broke out in April, the UN says.

Ms Dlamini-Zuma called on leaders on all sides to "demonstrate the sense of responsibility that the situation demands, and to place the interests of the Burundian people above any other consideration."

She repeated AU threats made last month of "targeted sanctions" against Burundian leaders, and said the AU continued to back mediation efforts led by Uganda.

Opponents said Mr Nkurunziza’s re-election breached the terms of the peace deal that paved the way to ending civil war.