UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. Security Council scheduled a vote Friday on a resolution strongly condemning increasing killings, torture and human rights violations in Burundi, and threatening possible sanctions against those contributing to the violence.
Top U.N. officials and human rights groups have urged action against what witnesses call a deadly government crackdown on opposition members. Statements last week by government officials echoing language used in the 1994 Rwanda genocide have raised alarms at the U.N.
The draft resolution asks Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to deploy a team to Burundi to work with the government, African Union and other partners to "develop options to address political and security concerns."
The African Union has asked the East African Standby Force to expedite contingency planning to deploy to Burundi if the situation gets worse.
A U.N. peacekeeping department spokesman said Wednesday the U.N. is working closely with the AU and the deployment of peacekeepers from Congo has also been mentioned as a possible option.
"While this is ultimately a matter for the Security Council to decide, a regional coalition would be well placed to provide a rapid and credible response if the situation in Burundi worsens," the spokesman said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. "Other options will also continue to be explored."
Britain's U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, the current council president, said members have come together this week "to ensure that we are doing everything possible to increase the pressure on the authorities in Burundi to warn against the dangers of mass atrocities."
At least 240 people have been killed since protests began in April against President Pierre Nkurunziza's ultimately successful quest for a third term.