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In Burundi, ICRC Against Hospital "Vandalism," Use of UN Arms UNclear

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 20 -- Five days after the UN Security Council, the United States and the UN Peacebuilding Configuration on Burundi on May 15 issued statements urging calm in the country given the return of Pierre Nkurunziza to presumably run for a third term, on May 20 the International Committee of the Red Cross issued a carefully worded press release that did not directly say people were dragged out of hospitals:

"The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is extremely concerned about the tense pre-election atmosphere in Burundi and its humanitarian impact on the people of that country. The organization is appealing for calm among all parties involved and asks that health-care staff be allowed to do their work safely and that medical facilities not be interfered with.

"We are very troubled by the repercussions of the violence that has taken place in Burundi," said Georgios Georgantas, head of the ICRC delegation in the country. "People must remember that human life and dignity have to be respected at all times, and that health-care staff and medical centres must be spared from, and protected against, acts of violence and vandalism," said Mr Georgantas. The ICRC is also requesting that the orders issued to police comply with prevailing standards and regulations so that the use of force will be kept to an absolute minimum.

"The crisis has given rise to humanitarian needs in the capital Bujumbura and in neighbouring countries, forcing the ICRC to step up its efforts. In Burundi, ICRC delegates visit those who have been arrested to ensure their living conditions and the treatment they are receiving are in line with international standards. The organization also provides medicines and medical equipment to the prison authorities as needed."

   What of people dragged out of hospitals? Now there's medical equipment to jails.

 On May 19 the UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said UN envoy Said Djinnit would briefing the Security Council and, he hoped, the media on May 20. But it did not happened; the Council's penholder, when asked, did not say when it might happen.

  Meanwhile Inner City Press was multiply informed of an offer that had been made to Nkurunziza, to ween him from the third term dream: a high but honorary post in FIFA, the football federation, as a sort of goodwill ambassador.

  Nkurunziza turned it down, Inner City Press is informed by Permanent Representatives at the UN and other diplomatic sources. Now he has sacked ministers and said it is him or Al Shabaab. What could have been, FIFA. (Inner City Press also asked on May 18 about Qatar detaining a BBC journalist while he reported on the situation of migrant workers preparing there for the FIFA World Cup.)

  On Burundi, from the UN's May 18 noon briefing transcript


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