UN mulls boosting presence in Burundi

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Pall-bearers carry the coffin of Welly Nzitonda, the son of human rights defender Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa, during a funeral ceremony in Bujumbura, Burundi (10 November 2015)Image source, AFP
Image caption,
The son of a prominent human rights defender was among those killed in the past week

The United Nations Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution strongly condemning the escalating violence in Burundi.

The resolution paves the way for the UN to bolster the international presence in the African nation.

There are fears of a Rwandan-style genocide in Burundi, which also has a history of tensions between Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups.

At least 240 people have been killed there since protests began in April.

The cycle of violence began with demonstrations against President Pierre Nkurunziza's bid for a third term.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
The son of a prominent human rights defender was among those killed in the past week
Image source, AP
Image caption,
There has been a deadly government crackdown on opposition groups

He argued that his first term as president did not count towards the constitutional two-term limit as he was chosen by MPs.

Mr Nkurunziza was duly re-elected with 70% of the vote in July.

The French-drafted resolution, which was passed unanimously, condemns the wave of killings, arrests and human rights violations, and paves the way for a possible deployment of blue-helmeted UN peacekeepers.

The resolution requests that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reports within 15 days on options for increasing the UN presence in the country.

UN officials are considering a number of alternatives, including rushing in peacekeepers currently deployed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, says the BBC's Nick Bryant.

But that would require another vote in the Security Council.

"Our primary objective, of course, is to ensure that Burundi does not descend into mass violence," US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power told reporters on Thursday.

The resolution calls for urgent talks between the government and the opposition to end the crisis.

It stops short of imposing sanctions against Burundian leaders.

The United Nations, African Union and European Union warned earlier on Thursday that political division in Burundi threatened to create a "deep regional crisis" and called on both sides to meet for mediated talks.

"No effort can be spared to achieve an end to the violence and to foster a political solution," the organisations said in a joint statement.