UNITED NATIONS, New York: The UN Security Council is expected to unanimously adopt on Thursday (Friday in Manila) a French-drafted resolution aimed at ending violence in Burundi that many fear could escalate into Rwanda-style mass killings.
The measure would put in motion UN plans to bolster the international presence in Burundi, possibly with the deployment of peacekeepers after months of turmoil.
The council is set to convene at 12:15 pm (1715 GMT). French diplomats said they expected unanimous support for the draft resolution from the 15-member council.
Burundi has been rocked by killings, torture and illegal detentions since President Pierre Nkurunziza launched a controversial bid to prolong his term in office in April.
At least 240 people have been killed and more than 200,000 Burundians have fled the country.
Taking the lead, France on Monday circulated the draft resolution that threatened sanctions against Burundian leaders who incite attacks or impede peace efforts.
But a final draft released on Wednesday was watered down, stating instead that the council was prepared to consider “appropriate measures” without specifying that targeted sanctions were on the table.
The amendments were to address concerns from Russia and some African countries that sanctions would not be helpful to efforts to prevent a bloodbath.
Drawing up plans
The resolution would request that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon present options to the council within 15 days on actions that could be taken to thwart the violence.
UN officials are drawing up plans to rush peacekeepers from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Burundi if the violence spirals out of control.
The 20,000-strong MONUSCO force in the Democratic Republic of Congo is backed up by a rapid-reaction brigade made up of elite troops from South Africa, Malawi and Tanzania that could also be deployed.
Another possibly more likely scenario is to dispatch a regional African force.
“The use of MONUSCO assets and personnel has been mentioned as one possible option,” said a UN spokesman for peacekeeping.
“While this is ultimately a matter for the Security Council to decide, a regional coalition would be well-placed to provide a rapid and credible response if the situation in Burundi worsens,” he added.
International alarm over the crisis in Burundi has been mounting after repeated appeals to Nkurunziza to enter into a dialogue with the opposition fell on deaf ears.
Diplomats have raised concerns about Rwanda becoming embroiled in the conflict after President Paul Kagame accused Burundi’s leaders of carrying out “massacres” on their people.
UN officials have pointed to the use of inflammatory rhetoric in Burundi as an ominous sign.
The country’s Senate president Reverien Ndikuriyo recently threatened to “pulverize” regime opponents who do not lay down arms.
“Today, the police shoot in the legs… but when the day comes that we tell them to go to ‘work,’ do not come crying to us,” he said.
The term “work” was a term used as code in Rwanda to unleash the killings of at least 800,000 mainly Tutsi people by extremist Hutu militias in the 1994 genocide.
Burundi’s civil war from 1993 to 2006 left some 300,000 people dead as rebels from the majority Hutu people clashed with an army dominated by the minority Tutsis.