UN ambassadors head to Burundi

New York – UN Security Council ambassadors headed to Burundi on Wednesday to push the government to open up serious talks with the opposition and agree to an African Union force that could prevent a slide to all-out war.
It is the second time in less than a year that the 15-member council travels to Burundi, where the United Nations has warned that months of violence could escalate into ethnic killings and mass atrocities.
“We should all be worried,” US Ambassador Samantha Power told AFP on the eve of the trip.
“Every day, there are reports of grenade attacks or bodies found on the side of the street in the morning.”
“There is a history here where a match can be lit and things can spiral very, very quickly.”
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 400 people have died in the violence and at least 230 000 have fled to neighboring countries.
The visit organised by the United States, France and Angola has been in the works for weeks and the government has made clear it will not be rolling out the red carpet for the council envoys.
At a meeting planned for Friday, the council hopes to persuade Nkurunziza to agree to an AU proposal for a 5 000-strong peacekeeping force, which his government has branded an “invasion force.”
“We have a chance as a council to throw our weight behind what the AU has already put forward,” said Power.
The African Union proposal would provide for a phased deployment, with a first wave of military observers to be sent into Burundi, including possibly at the border with Rwanda, diplomats said.

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