US says UN not doing enough on Burundi crisis

Between 500 and 2,000 people have been killed in violence in Burundi since 2015, according to sources such as the United Nations and non-governmental organisations (AFP Photo/STRINGER) (AFP/File)

United Nations (United States) (AFP) - Washington's envoy to the United Nations complained Wednesday that the international body was not doing enough to address the worsening crisis in Burundi.

Ambassador Samantha Power said there was "insufficient contingency planning" on Burundi, nearly five weeks after the Security Council adopted a resolution calling for such measures.

"Many council members are eager to see the pace of contingency planning accelerated," Power told reporters.

UN officials have said they are drawing up plans including possibly rushing peacekeepers to Burundi from neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo if the violence gets worse.

Burundi descended into bloodshed in April when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his intention to run for a controversial third term, which he went on to win in July.

More than 300 people have died in the violence and 20,000 have fled their homes across borders to neighboring countries.

Declaring that Burundi was on the brink of war, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said earlier that he was dispatching an envoy to push for urgent talks to end the crisis.

"What we have seen over the past few days is chilling," Ban said after fresh clashes left dozens dead in Bujumbura in the last week alone.

"The country is on the brink of a civil war that risks engulfing the entire region," he warned.

UN envoy Jamal Benomar will travel to the region this week to meet with African Union and regional leaders before talks in Bujumbura on opening up a dialogue between the government and the opposition.

The United Nations has repeatedly called for political talks between Nkurunziza's government and the opposition to put a halt to the violence, but these appeals have fallen on deaf ears.

The United States is pressing for a UN investigative team to travel to Burundi to report on human rights violations.

Adama Dieng, a UN adviser for the prevention of genocide, last week warned that both the government and the opposition were manipulating ethnic tensions in Burundi, pitting Hutus and Tutsis against each other.

The rise in hate speech has fueled fears of mass atrocities in Burundi, similar to the carnage in neighboring Rwanda in 1994.

"I am not saying that tomorrow there will be a genocide in Burundi but there is a serious risk that if we do not stop the violence this may end with a civil war and following such a civil war anything is possible," he said.