Burundi violence could destabilise region, US warns

US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power speaks at the UN headquarters in New York on January 22, 2015. FILE PHOTO | JEWEL SAMAD |

What you need to know:

  • Samantha Power says clashes could spiral into "irreversible conflict".
  • A crisis affecting neighbouring countries could develop as well, Ambassador Power added.

NEW YORK

Intensifying violence in Burundi carries grave risks for the country and for the sub-region, United States Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power warned on Friday.

In Burundi itself, deadly clashes in response to President Pierre Nkurunziza's decision to seek a third term could spiral into "irreversible conflict," Ambassador Power said.

A crisis affecting neighbouring countries could develop as well, Ambassador Power added.

More than 50,000 refugees have fled Burundi in the recent weeks to Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Past experience in the sub-region shows "how quickly political disputes can descend into ethnic disputes," the US diplomat said.

Speaking to reporters following a UN Security Council session focused on Burundi, Ambassador Power said the US is "prepared to take targeted measures" against those Burundian figures judged responsible for fomenting violence and instability.

She reiterated US opposition to Mr Nkurunziza's move to stand in the scheduled June elections, saying his pursuit of a third term violates provisions in an accord that helped put an end to ethnic bloodletting in Burundi.

Security Council emissaries travelled to Burundi two months ago to emphasise that Mr Nkurunziza's candidacy could trigger violence, Ambassador Power noted.

He rejected that warning, she said, and "we're seeing the consequences of his dismissiveness of that risk".

President Nkurunziza "has to put his people first," Ambassador Power suggested, giving that obligation priority over "his own personal desire to seek a third term".

The envoy added that the US welcomed the efforts by the East African Community to defuse the situation in Burundi.

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