Burundi Moves Step Closer to Civil War, UN Rights Chief Says

Burundi is moving closer to civil war after the worst violence in an eight-month political crisis left at least 87 people dead last week, the United Nations human rights agency said.

The latest bout of unrest began on Friday when "dozens of people" died in heavy fighting after attacks on military buildings in the capital, Bujumbura, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in an statement on its website on Tuesday. Security forces responded by arresting hundreds of people as they conducted house searches, and allegedly carried out summary executions, according to the statement.

"With this latest series of bloody events, the country seems to have taken a new step towards outright civil war and tensions are now at bursting point in Bujumbura," it said. The international community needs to take stronger action to end the violence, the UN rights agency said.

Landlocked Burundi, which holds 6 percent of the world’s nickel reserves, descended into violence in April when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would seek a third term, which he won in July. Critics say he violated a two-term limit in a 2005 peace deal that ended a civil war. More than 300 people have been killed in the past eight months.

The U.S. on Sunday warned its citizens against travel to Burundi and ordered the departure of dependents of U.S. government personnel as well as non-emergency staff.

“It is far past time for all of Burundi’s leaders to set aside narrow self-interest, accommodate each other’s legitimate concerns, and work together to restore peace and provide for the common good of all of Burundi’s people,” U.S. Senator Edward Markey, a member of the Africa and Global Health subcommittee, said in an e-mailed statement.

Special envoys from the UN, U.S., EU and African Union discussed regional efforts to resolve Burundi’s crisis in Uganda last week. The five-nation East African Community is organizing the dialogue, with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni appointed to lead negotiations.

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