BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) — Some residents fled their neighborhood in Burundi’s capital on Thursday after they found four bodies on the streets, part of a wave of killings associated with President Pierre Nkurunziza’s re-election for a third term.
France has called for an urgent U.N. Security Council meeting on the crisis, Philippe Bertoux, the political coordinator for France’s U.N. mission, tweeted Thursday evening. Britain, the current council president, said the meeting is set for Monday.
And the United States expressed alarm, with Ambassador Samantha Power saying the U.S. is concerned that Nkurunziza’s five-day ultimatum issued Monday for having security forces search homes for weapons and opposition figures “will trigger widespread violence beginning this coming weekend.”
The four deaths raises to 13 people killed since Saturday.
The U.N. human rights chief estimates that at least 198 people have been killed in Burundi since late April, when Nkurunziza announced his bid for a third term in office that was opposed locally and internationally.
“I have to flee. The one who is supposed to protect us is killing us,” said a resident who identified herself only as Marrianne, referring to the security forces.
Nkurunziza’s successful bid for a third term sparked violent street protests and a failed coup. More than 200,000 people have fled the Central African country as a result.
It appears Nkurunziza’s supporters and opponents are killing each other, and the security forces are killing opposition members. A former intelligence chief who was a staunch ally of Nkurunziza is among the victims, but many of those killed have been ordinary Burundians whose bodies were dumped far from where they lived.
Power said Thursday that “the United States is alarmed by the escalating violence in Burundi and dangerous, irresponsible rhetoric on the part of the government, loyalist militias, violent anti-government forces and criminal elements.”
The U.S. ambassador accused government officials of using “incendiary and divisive speech” and urged the government to allow “immediate, unfettered access for African Union human rights and security monitors.”
U.S. President Barack Obama said last week that Burundi isn’t making enough progress toward establishing rule of law and will be removed from a U.S. trade preference program for African countries.
In a letter to lawmakers, Obama cited a worsening crackdown on opposition members, including assassinations, by Burundi’s government as the basis for his decision to delist the country on Jan. 1.
Associated Press writers Edith M. Lederer and Cara Anna contributed to this report from the United Nations
ELOGE WILY KANEZA, Associated Press
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