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UN warns of genocide risk in Burundi

Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza's decision to run for a controversial third term sparked mass riots, a failed coup and a simmering rebellion (AFP Photo/Carl de Souza)

United Nations (United States) (AFP) - The United Nations warned Tuesday that violence in Burundi could degenerate into genocide, and stressed the urgent need for a political dialogue.

The warning came on the eve of the first international day set aside by the UN General Assembly to commemorate the victims of genocide and work to prevent its recurrence.

Adama Dieng, a special UN adviser for the prevention of genocide, told reporters he was worried that both the government and the opposition were manipulating ethnic tensions in Burundi, pitting Hutus and Tutsis against each other.

"I am not saying that tomorrow there will be a genocide in Burundi but there is a serious risk that if we do not stop the violence this may end with a civil war and following such a civil war anything is possible," he said.

He recalled Burundi's history of internal violence, including a civil war that raged from 1995 to 2003, and called for "sincere and inclusive dialogue."

"We cannot solve the problem by sending military troops," he warned.

On September 12, the UN Security Council adopted a French-sponsored resolution authorizing possible deployments of peacekeepers to Burundi.

For now, however, the United Nations plans to send only a small team led by its envoy to Burundi, Jamal Benomar, to push for a political dialogue.

The situation has grown worse since the disputed re-election of President Pierre Nkurunziza to a third term on July 21, with armed groups and government security forces facing off against each other in violent clashes. Since April, hundreds of people have been killed and more than 200,000 have fled the country.