NAIROBI (Reuters) - More than 450 people have been killed in Burundi in unrest that began a year ago, the police said in a report on the crisis that has raised fears of a return to the ethnically charged violence of civil war.
“The report at the disposal of police shows that 451 people have been killed since the start of the crisis, including 77 police officers and 374 civilians,” the police said.
The crisis began when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced in April 2015 plans to run for a third term. Despite criticism that that violated the constitution and a peace deal that ended the civil war in 2005, he went on to win July’s election.
Nkurunziza’s camp says a court ruling had declared the former rebel-turned-president eligible to seek another term.
The police report said 59 of its officers had been jailed over the last year for “serious misconduct”. It did not detail their actions but opponents of the government have accused the police of violently suppressing protests and dissent.
The government denies that but say the police have pursued opponents who have taken up arms. At least three rebel groups have emerged, one of them led by army officers who launched a failed coup last May.
The violence, which diplomats say includes tit-for-tat killings of pro-government supporters and political opponents, has so far largely been driven by political differences.
But diplomats and residents in Bujumbura, which has seen the worst of the violence, say there are worrying signs of ethnically motivated killings.
Burundi has an ethnic Hutu majority and Tutsi minority, the same split as in neighboring Rwanda, which was torn apart by genocide in 1994.
Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Robin Pomeroy