UNSC urges Burundi dialogue

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The United Nations Security Council diplomats on Friday told Burundi officials that the country’s crisis that has left hundreds dead should be resolved by dialogue.

UN estimates that at least 439 people have died in the East African country, but says the number could be much higher. More than 240,000 people have fled the country to neighbouring countries.

Ambassadors from the 15-member council arrived in Burundi on Thursday evening and are scheduled to meet President Pierre Nkurunziza later on Friday.

Some of the visitors want persuade the president to accept an African peacekeeping force to be deployed in the country to prevent an ethnic conflict in a region where memories of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide remains fresh.

Nkurunziza has rejected the deployment of the troops, saying they would constitute “an invading force”.

“The fighting has to stop and the killings have to stop,” deputy French ambassador to the United Nations, Alexis Lamek, told Reuters after diplomats met Burundi’s foreign minister, Alain Nyamitwe, adding that dialogue was “the only way”.

Rebels have revealed that a general who led a failed coup in May is now leading their force.

Thursday’s announcement by FOREBU that the group was now commanded by the former intelligence chief, General Godefroid Niyombare, deepens concerns that Burundi is sliding back into conflict after its ethnically charged civil war ended in 2005.

Niyombare disappeared after the coup. Allies said he was alive and still working to unseat Nkurunziza, although he has made no public statements. Other coup plotters have been jailed.

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