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UN Warns Burundi’s Nkurunziza Over Fourth Term Ambition

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Any attempt by President Pierre Nkurunziza to seek a fourth term in office risks undermining collective efforts to find a sustainable solution to the political crisis in Burundi, says the Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General for Conflict Prevention, Jamal Benomar.

Benomar spoke while presenting the Secretary-General’s Report on Burundi to the Security Council just as he expressed concern about the worsening human rights situation in the country.

The senior UN official, warned that political crisis in Burundi has continued to deepen amid serious human rights violations, mass displacements of people and economic degradation.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) had documented allegations of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and forced disappearances, as well as cases of torture and ill-treatm0ent, he said.

Benomar added that there had been more than 210 cases of enforced disappearances between October 2016 and January 2017.

According to him, many live in fear of the Imbonerakure, the ruling party’s youth militia.

“On the humanitarian front, the number of people needing assistance in 2016 had reached three million – or 26 per cent of the population – and there had been a four-fold increase in the number of those who were food insecure.

“Some 8.2 million people – or 75 per cent of the population – were affected by malaria, he said, adding that almost 390,000 Burundians had fled the country since the start of the crisis.”

He said the interim report of the internal dialogue led by the Government-established National Commission for Inter-Burundian Dialogue was close to completion had reached a number of conclusions that could undermine the Arusha Agreement.

According to Benomar, the interim report states that the majority of citizens demanded an end to presidential term limits and favoured amendment of the Constitution, which opposition and civil society groups rejected.

Benjamin Mkapa, East African Community Facilitator of the Inter-Burundi Dialogue and former President of the United Republic of Tanzania, said he had worked to bring the parties together to resume “the spirit and dictates” of the Arusha Agreement and the Constitution.

While both sides agreed that those instruments must form the basis for progress, the opposition believed the Government had narrowed the political space, Mkapa said.

However, Albert Shingiro, Permanent Representative of Burundi to the UN, rejected some aspects of the report, notably that Nkurunziza would seek a fourth mandate, saying the President was currently exercising his second mandate.

Shingiro alleged “unwise” use of the term “militia” to describe young people affiliated with the ruling party, which was not in line with the language of past UN resolutions.

“The Council had never used that loaded word having previously used the more balanced term ‘youth affiliated with political parties,” he said.

Shingiro had earlier accused the UN of being concerned about Nkurunziza’s fourth term citing presidents in Africa seeking fifth, sixth and seventh terms.

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