UN will not handle full scale violence in Burundi, warns confidential memo

President Pierre Nkunziza of Burundi. His decision to run for the third term sparked off the current crisis

President Pierre Nkunziza of Burundi. His decision to run for the third term sparked off the current crisis

A confidential memo obtained by the French news agency AFP Tuesday indicates the United Nations is increasingly worried it will not be able stop “large scale violence” in Burundi.

AFP reports that last week, the head of the UN Peacekeeping programs, Herve Ladsous dispatched the memo to UN Security Council calling on the body to quickly send a team to the conflict-blighted nation for crisis talks with the players in the turmoil.

In the correspondence, Ladsous reportedly warned even UN peacekeepers would not be able to halt the violence unleashed by Burundi’s “worst case scenario.”

“A truly worst-case scenario will result in a scale of violence beyond the United Nations’ capacity to protect,” he said in the memo.

Recent escalation in deadly violence in Burundi as illustrated by the rising death toll day by day has prompted many observers to warn the Central Africa state is tilting toward a civil war or Genocide as was the case in neighbouring Rwanda in 1994.

As a result, the African Union earlier last month proposed sending 5000 peacekeeping troops to Burundi and the UN Security expressed support for the resolution,

The Burundian government has however, rejected the AU proposal and President Nkurunziza has publicly threatened to fight the peacekeepers if the AU sends them without Bujumbura’s consent.

The UN memo’s revelations seem to highlight the UN’s lack of ability and capacity to protect civilians in big ethnic-tinged conflicts. In 1994, in spite of the fact that UN had deployed peacekeepers in Rwanda, the troops did not prevent or slow down the killings during the Tutsi Genocide.

Meanwhile, one member of the Burundian military and a police officer tried to defect Wednesday in Bujumbura but they died in a shoot out with the security forces, according to the police.

The Police Spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye revealed Army Capt. Idi Omar Bahenda and police Brig. Jean Claude Niyongabo were killed Wednesday in the Kiyenzi neighbourhood of Bujumbura.

Nkurikiye said the deceased duo, and another police officer who was captured alive, were found in a car full of explosives and weapons.

Throughout the 8-month conflict, residents of Bujumbura have been subjected to routine grenade explosions and heavy gunfire and as a result over 400 people have died.

Despite the daily increase in the death toll, there has been no breakthrough on the dialogue front. The talks mediated by Uganda are yet to bear fruits.

In a related development, the Arusha, Tanzania-based East African Legislative Assembly has began hearings on the crisis in Burundi particularly human rights abuses and extra-judicial killings , after being petitioned by Pan African Lawyers Union last November. The hearings will last four days after which the standing committee on Regional Affairs and Conflict Resolution Committee (RACR) will table recommendations to the full assembly on January 24.