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In Burundi, UN Says Helping Disarm, Panelist Says No Full Scale Conflict

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 13 -- As in Burundi the crackdown on those opposing or even questioning a third term for Pierre Nkurunziza continued through the boycotted parliamentary elections on June 29, Nkurunziza dismissed the UN's replacement mediator Abdoulaye Bathily, ostensibly because he wasn't sufficiently deferential to Nkurunziza (with whom UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has been unable to speak for some time.)

  On July 13, when Burundi was mentioned on a panel about UN Peacebuilding held just across First Avenue from the UN at IPI, Inner City Press ran over to ask some questions as before. Such Press questions were not possible, but on Burundi UN panelist Saraswathi Menon said that UN Peacekeeping has seen success in the country since, she said, there has been no collapse into full scale conflict.  Audio here.

  What would that consist of? Minutes later the UN's Assistant Secretary General for Peacebuilding Oscar Fernandez Taranco spoke and also raised Burundi. Inner City Press expected him to modify or amplify the previous statement about Burundi. Taranco said that UN Peacebuilding is helping with disarmament of militias affiliated with political parties. Really? Audio here. We'll have more on this.

  On the evening of July 10, the US State Department put this out:

"The United States is deeply concerned by reports that fighting has broken out in several areas of Burundi and by recently broadcast remarks by Burundians threatening to use force against the Government of Burundi.We urge all parties in Burundi to commit themselves to constructive dialogue to resolve peacefully the political impasse that threatens to unravel the peace and stability ushered in by the implementation of the Arusha Agreement over a decade ago.  The United States condemns violence as a means to attain political goals, and opposes any attempt to seize power through extraconstitutional means.  We strongly oppose any armed activity or incursions into Burundi and will seek to hold accountable those responsible for gross human rights abuses."

 Earlier on July 10, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric about increased violence, including the reported blocking of people attempting to flee into Rwanda, and what role if any the UN is playing in the mediation or facilitation ostensibly taking place in Burundi. Video here.

  Dujarric said the UN was aware of the reports of violence and was trying to verify them. On mediation he said the UN is now merely in support and that Inner City Press should ask others. To this has the UN been reduced.


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