Sunday, 13 December 2015

The United States on Sunday ordered non-emergency
US government personnel and dependents to leave
violence-torn Burundi and warned other Americans
to get out "as soon as it is feasible to do so."
The State Department warning followed some of the
worst violence in months of political unrest in the
capital Bujumbura on Friday that left nearly 90
people dead.
"The US Department of State warns US citizens
against all travel to Burundi and recommends that US
citizens currently in Burundi depart as soon as it is
feasible to do so," it said in a statement.
The Burundi army said 87 people were killed — 79
"enemies" and eight soldiers, according to Colonel
Gaspard Baratuza — during and after coordinated
assaults on three military installations early on Friday
morning.
Several witnesses accused the security forces of
extrajudicial killings in the hours following the
attacks and overnight into Saturday morning,
describing officers breaking down doors in search of
young men and shooting them at close range.
Some of the victims had their arms tied behind their
backs, they said.
US rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) called
Sunday for a "serious and independent" enquiry to be
carried out urgently into the latest violence.
"This is by far the most serious incident, with the
highest number of victims, since the start of the crisis
in April," Carina Tertsakian, HRW's researcher for
Burundi, said in a statement.
"A serious, independent investigation is urgently
needed to find out the exact circumstances in which
these people were killed," she said.
The government was quick to clear bodies from the
streets, burying them in mass graves, with critics
saying the move aimed to prevent further
investigation of the deaths and to disguise the real
number of people killed.
Friday's fighting was the worst outbreak since a failed
May coup, sparked by President Pierre Nkurunziza's
bid for a third term in office, which he later won in
disputed elections in July.
Months of street protests against Nkurunziza have
devolved into frequent armed attacks, with gunfire
regularly erupting at night in Bujumbura and dead
bodies a frequent sight on the city's streets.
Attacks targeting the security forces have escalated,
with rebels armed with assault rifles, rocket-
propelled grenades and mortars attacking police
convoys and targeting government installations.
Residents of Bujumbura have become used to the
unrest, and despite the scale and severity of the most
recent violence the city was calm on Sunday with life
returning to normal.
The UN Security Council met Friday following a
request from France, with UN chief Ban Ki-moon
saying the attacks risked triggering "a further
destabilisation of the situation" and urging all sides
to hold back, according to his spokesman.
UN figures released before Friday's violence showed
at least 240 people had been killed and more than
200,000 had fled abroad since May, raising fears of a
return to civil war, a decade after the end of a
1993-2006 conflict between rebels from the Hutu
majority and an army dominated by minority Tutsis.
Some 300,000 people were killed in the war, which
began a year before a genocide of mostly Tutsis in
neighbouring Rwanda.
The Security Council said that sending UN
peacekeepers to the nation remained an option, and
stressed the need for urgent political dialogue.

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