15 January 2016

Burundi: Exclusive - Nkurunziza's Spokesman Denies Burundi Rights Abuses

Nairobi — Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza's spokesman Gervais Abayeho has dismissed reports by the United Nations of ethnic killings in the country.

Abayeho has termed as "unsubstantiated" the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein's statement Friday that Burundian security forces were violating human rights and targeting Tutsi's in retaliation for attacks on military bases in December.

"These are reports which to us are unwarranted, baseless and which have not been substantiated. We call on everybody who would like to visit Burundi to come to see the situation first hand on the ground; see that these claims are false," he said in an exclusive interview with Capital FM News in Nairobi.

He said it was hypocritical of the UN to use Burundian forces - whom they accused of human rights violations - in peace keeping missions on the continent.

"It's quite a contradiction that Burundi is the most contributing nation for peace keeping operations on the continent. We have about 6,000 soldiers in Somalia and we have soldiers in the Central African Republic and I think there have been requests for Burundi to send troops to South Sudan," he said.

He also took exception to Al Hussein's statement that "a complete breakdown in law and order is just around the corner," saying the unrest had largely been quelled.

"The only places that have been 'not peaceful' is only three neighbourhoods in Bujumbura. This does not represent even one percent of the whole Burundi territory," he said.

He blamed the pictures of social disorder coming out of Burundi on the machinations of a small minority opposed to Nkurunziza's third term in office who had managed to get the international press to dance to their tune.

"We cannot deny the fact that there has been social unrest, political problems in Burundi. But there is this worldwide media propaganda against Burundi," he said just days after a leaked UN memo to the Security Council raised the alarm that:

"A truly worst-case scenario will result in a scale of violence beyond the United Nations' capacity to protect," UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said in regard to a proposed peacekeeping force for Burundi.

But while the government and UN accounts of the 'situation on the ground' in Burundi may be day and night, the two parties seem to agree on one point: dialogue.

A week after the African Union mediated talks that were to take place in Arusha failed to go ahead, Abayeho gave an assurance that Nkurunziza, for whom he speaks, was indeed committed to them.

Just how promising the talks are is another matter all together given the government's hard line stance that the legitimacy of President Nkurunziza's third term in office, which set off the most recent unrest in the central African nation, is not up for discussion.

"We have to agree on the agenda, on who is representing who, on which topics will be discussed there," Abayeho said.


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