Hundreds continue to flee Burundi capital ahead of tough-talking Nkurunziza’s deadline to opponents

Burundi’s senate chief's speech “invoked the language of horrors the region hasn’t witnessed in 20 years” – Samantha Power

THE mayor of Burundi’s capital urged calm as hundreds of people fled violence in parts of the city and the U.S. warned that President Pierre Nkurunziza’s ultimatum to his opponents could spur wider bloodshed.

Residents of Bujumbura’s Mutakura neighbourhood continued to leave Friday, carrying some possessions and describing heavy gunfire and several dead bodies discovered on the streets. Four people were killed in Mutakura and Cibitoke districts overnight Wednesday after police clashed with unidentified gunmen, police spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye said.

“There is nothing that can cause them to flee their homes,” mayor Freddy Mbonimpa said late Thursday on national television. “I call them to stay home and collaborate with security forces to trace wrongdoers.”

Violence in the East African nation has killed more than 120 people and forced 180,000 others to flee their homes since April, when Nkurunziza announced his bid for another term. Opponents say his re-election in July violates a two-term limit set out in peace accords that ended a 12-year civil war in 2005.

Samantha Power, the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, expressed alarm at escalating violence and “dangerous, irresponsible rhetoric on the part of the government, loyalist militias, violent anti-government forces and criminal elements.”

Nkurunziza’s Nov. 2 pledge to “to use violent methods to have security forces search homes for weapons and opposition figures” within five days ”only prolongs and deepens Burundi’s political and security crisis,” she said in a statement Thursday.

The U.S. is concerned the ultimatum “will trigger widespread violence beginning this coming weekend,” Power said. She also criticised a speech by the head of Burundi’s senate that “reportedly invoked the language of horrors the region hasn’t witnessed in 20 years.”


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