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Africa

Burundi civil society urges UN Security Council to take strong stance during two-day visit

media Relatives grieving for Alexandre Mpawenimana, opposition party activist, allegedly killed by police in Muyira, Bujumbura province on 11 January 2016. AFP Photo

Members from the UN Security Council are expected to arrive in Burundi's capital Bujumbura on Thursday as part of a diplomatic effort to help solve the crisis in the country. President Pierre Nkurunziza's controversial decision to stand for a third term in office has sparked violence resulting in more than 400 deaths since April last year and thousands having fled to neighbouring countries. RFI spoke to Vital Nshimirimana, head of the Forum for Strengthening Civil Society.

What are your hopes for the UN Security Council visit to Burundi?

It has been 10 months - March last year - since the UN Security Council visited Burundi. And now [the situation] is worse, so we hope that the UN Security Council actually takes very tough measures against Nkurunziza's regime in order to obligate [him] to uphold human rights and humanitarian law. It should take the situation very, very seriously because we are on the brink of a genocide.

Do you think the Ugandan mediator should be changed, as has been discussed recently?

We are questioning the performance of the mediator because it has been too slow. But the mediator has shown his willingness to actually conduct peace talks. He needs support from the African Union, from the United Nations so that he can perform better.

At this stage we do believe that the mediator can still enhance his capacity and his performance if he's provided support. We do not think that the appointment of a new mediator would be a good thing unless he's proven to have failed.

Have you heard reports of mass graves? The UN human rights chief has talked about evidence of mass graves.

We are informed that there are a dozen mass graves in several locations in Burundi…This has been documented by civil society human rights organisations…We do have at least, but not limited to 12. In Bujumbura, Kinama, Kamenge, up country, in the commune of Muramvya, Rumonge, Bukinanyana, Karuzi to name but a few.

What about allegations of gang rape by security forces?

Rape today is used like a tool of war especially in the city of Bujumbura since a while. Because in Burundi traditionally girls or women who are raped, they're shy about speaking out. And now that there are less men in these neighbourhoods, and frequent visits by Imbonerakure and security forces we do believe that there have been many cases of rape, as reported by several sources.

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