January 21, 2016

At least one killed as gunfire, explosions rock Burundi capital

At least one person was killed Thursday evening as gunfire and explosions rocked several parts of the Burundi capital, a local official and witnesses said, just as a UN Security Council delegation arrived to push for an end to months of political unrest.

One youth was shot dead by police after a grenade went off in Bujumbura’s northeastern Mutakura area, a local administrative source said, adding that a second person was injured by gun shots. The information was confirmed by several witnesses.

Explosions and gunfire were also heard between 6:30 pm and 8:00 pm (1630-1800 GMT) in the central Bwiza district, in southern Musaga neighbourhood and in the north of the city, residents said.

The unrest erupted shortly after UN Security Council ambassadors landed in Bujumbura to push the government to open talks with the opposition and accept peacekeepers to end the deadly violence that has gripped the country since April, when President Pierre Nkurunziza’s announced his ultimately successful re-election bid.

Upon arrival Thursday, the UN team was met by hundreds of protesters urging them not to meddle in Burundi’s domestic matters. Some carried signs in English that read “genocide will not happen” and “stop interfering in Burundian affairs”.

At a meeting planned for Friday, the council hopes to persuade Nkurunziza to agree to an African Union proposal of 5,000 peacekeepers, which his government has branded an “invasion force”.

More than 400 people have died in the unrest since April and at least 230,000 have fled to neighbouring countries.