The United Nations Security Council asked U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday to provide options for a police deployment to Burundi, where simmering political violence has stoked fears the small African state could spiral into ethnic conflict.
Burundi has been embroiled in political violence since President Pierre Nkurunziza said last April he would seek a third term, which his opponents said was illegal. Since then, at least 439 people have been killed and more than 250,000 have fled.
The 15-member council unanimously adopted a French-drafted resolution after language asking the United Nations to work with the government of Burundi on disarmament was removed to appease the United States, which is a council veto power.
The United States had been concerned about linking the United Nations efforts to broker peace in Burundi with the country’s security forces, who have been accused of human rights abuses, one council diplomat said.
The United Nations said in January it has documented cases of Burundi’s security forces gang-raping women during searches of opposition supporters’ houses and heard witness testimony of mass graves.
The resolution asks Ban – in consultation with the Burundi government and cooperation with the African Union – to provide options within 15-days for the deployment of a U.N. “police contribution to increase the U.N. capacity to monitor the security situation, promote the respect of human rights and advance rule of law.”
Burundi’s U.N. ambassador, Albert Shingiro, said in February that any potential U.N. help would be limited to civilian assistance in the development, or “capacity building,” of the police and monitoring the border with Rwanda.
The United Nations is under growing pressure to show it can halt the bloodshed in Burundi more than two decades after the 1994 genocide of ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus by the Hutu majority in neighboring Rwanda. Rwanda and Burundi have a similar ethnic makeup.
The U.N. resolution “urges the government of Burundi and all parties to reject any kind of violence and condemn any public statement inciting violence or hatred” and urges the government “to respect, protect and guarantee human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.”
In January, the 15-member Security Council made its second visit to the landlocked state in less than a year, where fears of an ethnic war have also led to an economic crisis. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also visited in February.