Burundi: UN chief condemns killing of opposition politician as tensions in country rise

The police in Bujumbura, Burundi, have increasingly broken up opposition party gatherings. Photo: IRIN/Desire Nimubona

24 May 2015 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the killing of a Burundian politician and his bodyguard in a move that threatens to further destabilize the country amid simmering political tensions and a growing humanitarian crisis.

Zedi Feruzi, leader of the opposition Union pour la paix et le développement (UPD) Zigamibanga party in Burundi, and his bodyguard, were reportedly shot dead in the country capital of Bukumbura late yesterday evening. According to the UN spokesperson's office, the killing comes just one day after a fatal grenade attack on Bujumbura's central market that left two dead and many others wounded.

In a statement issued late last night, the UN spokesperson said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the Burundian authorities to swiftly bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice as the incidents “threaten to entrench mistrust and trigger further violence.”

“These acts of violence constitute a stark reminder of the need for all Burundian political leaders to address the current political crisis with the highest sense of responsibility and to place peace and national reconciliation above partisan interests,” the statement declared.

“The Secretary-General reiterates his calls for calm and restraint. He calls on the Burundian authorities to uphold the human rights of all Burundians, including the freedoms of assembly, association and expression, and to take concrete steps to prevent political killings and violence.”

Against that backdrop, the political tensions in Burundi have also contributed to a mounting humanitarian crisis as thousands of Burundian refugees continue to seek safety in neighbouring countries. Since early April, in fact, nearly 100,000 Burundians have fled across the borders to Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

With the situation in Burundi remaining tense and with continued violence reported, aid agencies fear that the number of refugees may double over the next six months. And with the Tanzanian Government this week declaring a cholera epidemic in the Kigoma area of Lake Tanganyika where many of the refugees are, the situation has grown increasingly complicated and the urgency of implementing the response plan has increased.

Some 31 people have died from the disease so far, including 2 locals and 29 refugees. The deaths have been in the port town of Kigoma on Lake Tanganyika, in the nearby villages of Kagunga and Nyarugusu, and among people being transported by ferry from Kagunga to Kigoma.

In the statement, the UN spokesperson added that the Secretary-General continued to encourage Burundian stakeholders to pursue the consultative political dialogue facilitated by his Special Envoy Said Djinnit and other regional actors and called on them to remain undeterred by “those who, through violence, seek to prevent the creation of an environment conducive to peaceful, credible and inclusive elections in Burundi.”

Meanwhile, in a separate statement issued later in the day, the UN Security Council also condemned “in the strongest terms” both the killing of Mr. Feruzi and the deadly grenade attack as it reiterated its call on “all Burundian stakeholders to demonstrate their sense of responsibility and exercise calm and restraint in the interest of peace and reconciliation.”

Moreover, the Council reiterated its “intent to respond” to violent acts which threaten peace and security in Burundi.


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