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Burundi's government has demanded the United Nations provide evidence or apologise after an alleged UN report claimed it was arming young supporters, amid renewed concerns over political violence.
Local media have been quoting from a purportedly leaked internal UN report that sounded the alarm over “allegations” that members of the Imbonerakure, the youth wing of Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza's party, were being armed and trained in weapons use.
Vice-President Prosper Bazombanza, in a broadcast on official radio late on Tuesday following meetings with foreign ambassadors, accused the UN Office in Burundi of releasing the report “in bad taste”.
He demanded the UN either provide evidence or retract the report, dismissing fears of state-organised preparations for renewed violence, and even genocide.
“I can assure you that any action to bring about war in general, and to commit genocide in particular, cannot be tolerated,” Bazombanza.
The small Central African nation is still healing from decades of conflict, and is growing increasingly tense in the run-up to presidential elections in 2015, when Nkurunziza is expected to campaign for a third term in office despite a two-term constitutional limit.
The UN also issued a sharp warning to the small Central African nation's government on Thursday, urging it to halt political violence and respect human rights. A similar appeal was made during a visit to Burundi this week by Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN.
Burundi, however, has refused UN calls for an independent probe into the reports, saying they are “baseless rumours”.
France's ambassador to Burundi, Gerrit Van Rossum, however said it was clear there were tensions between rival groups, with clashes that had resulted in deaths in recent months.
“Anything the government can do to put an end to political intolerance, intimidation and physical confrontation is something that will encourage the international community to continue to work hand in hand with the government of Burundi to achieve free and inclusive elections,” he said. - Sapa-AFP