The top United Nations envoy for Burundi today strongly denounced summary executions, torture, sexual violence and arbitrary detentions by all sides in the war-torn central African country since the arrival of the UN mission there in June and called on all parties to cease forthwith and observe a truce.
"Fighting continues almost on a daily bases," Secretary General Kofi Annan's Special Representative Carolyn McAskie said in a news release in Bujumbura, the capital. "During these clashes, international humanitarian law is being violated, even though Burundi has signed up to it."
She noted that military and human rights observers had obtained conclusive evidence of the abuses which "are committed with total impunity" and denounced the "exploitation of people committed by all sides to the conflict for political and military gain."
Bujumbura Rural, the area around the capital, is a major focus of fighting between the rebel Forces Nationales de Liberation (FNL), the government army and the Conseil National pour la Defense et la Democratie-Forces de Defense de la Democratie (CNDD-FDD), the biggest armed rebel group which last year reached a ceasefire with the government.
Ms. McAskie called on all parties "to end the violence, to respect human and international humanitarian law and to observe a truce in order to create the necessary conditions for a total cessation of hostilities and for the protection of civilians" in the small country of some 6 million inhabitants.
The press release came just a day after the envoy made her first visit outside the capital to the country's second city of Gitega, where the first of four regional offices of the UN Operation in Burundi (ONUB) has just opened. ONUB is seeking to cement a multi-party, power-sharing government and pave the way to peace after more than a decade of civil war, culminating in free, transparent and peaceful elections.
Last week Ms. McAskie attended a meeting in South Africa of 31 Burundian political parties on forming such a government. The FNL has not joined in recent peace talks.