UN's Ban Visits Burundi as Blasts Highlight Security Risks

  • Police block streets after explosion near center of Bujumbura
  • Secretary-general next due to visit Congo, South Sudan

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Burundi’s capital hours after grenade blasts in the city highlighted the instability from months of political violence.

Ban landed in Bujumbura on Monday evening and is scheduled to meet President Pierre Nkurunziza, according to an e-mailed statement. The UN has warned the political crisis risks dragging the country back into a civil war and the visit has raised expectations that Ban will put even more pressure on the government and opponents to end the bloodshed.

Police and soldiers blocked the streets in Bujumbura’s northern Ntahangwa neighborhood and a market was evacuated after an explosion at about 9 a.m. Monday. Another blast happened in nearby Kamenge, SOS Medias Burundi, a local group of reporters, said on Twitter. Agence France-Presse said at least one person died, citing the city’s mayor.

National radio also reported that two people were shot dead late Sunday when an armed group attacked a pub in Mwaro, central Burundi. Police spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye didn’t answer calls seeking comment.

Landlocked Burundi, home to 6 percent of the world’s nickel reserves, has been hit by unrest that’s killed about 440 people since Nkurunziza decided in April to run for a third term, which opponents said was unconstitutional.

Ban’s visit comes after authorities canceled arrest warrants issued for opposition figures, including Leonard Nyangoma, head of the Cnared coalition that protested Nkurunziza’s re-election, and Gervais Rufyikiri, a former vice president. Two private radio stations that closed after a failed military coup in May were given permission to reopen.

Ban is scheduled to travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday and South Sudan on Thursday.

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