Burundi "at a crossroads" and could descend into genocide

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Security Council Chamber. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Burundi is "at a crossroads" and the international community needs to "wake up" to the possibility of genocide.

That's the stern warning given to the UN Security Council on Monday, by the UN's genocide expert.

At least 240 people have died and thousands have been displaced after months of protest and violence in Burundi this year.

Matthew Wells reports.

Unrest began as soon as Burundi's sitting president declared that he would seek a third term in office, despite their being a two-term constitutional limit. In July, he won a heavily-contested election, and since then, political violence has become increasingly ethnic in nature.

Briefing the Security Council, the UN Human Rights chief, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, said that violence orchestrated by government security forces and pro-government militia, was getting worse, with some opposition figures joining in the killing:

"The individuals responsible regardless of their rank, position or political affiliation, must be held to account and all possible influence must be brought to bear to halt what may be an imminent catastrophe."

The UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, told the Security Council that it bore a special responsibility to act unanimously, and quickly, to prevent a repeat of the conditions that led to genocide in neighbouring Rwanda, in 1994.

"Burundi is at a crossroads, and the international community needs to wake up to this reality…No-one should underestimate what is at stake. The country's history and that of its neighbour Rwanda have shown the tragic consequences of failing to act."

He said the stability of the entire region was at stake.

Matthew Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 1’24″

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