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US Envoy in Uganda to Encourage Burundi Peace Talks


U.S. Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region Tom Perriello speaks at a press conference in Bujumbura, Burundi, Nov. 10, 2015.

U.S. Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region Tom Perriello speaks at a press conference in Bujumbura, Burundi, Nov. 10, 2015.

A U.S. envoy is in Uganda to encourage talks to resolve Burundi's political crisis, a Ugandan official said Friday as the international community urged negotiations without pre-conditions.

Tom Perriello, the U.S. envoy to Africa's Great Lakes region, is visiting Uganda to consult with Uganda's president on how to restart the Burundi negotiations, said Okello Oryem, Uganda's deputy foreign minister.

Previous attempts at negotiations were marked by "a shortage of cooperation ... and slow movement by both sides" in Burundi, he said.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was nominated by a regional bloc to act as the mediator in Burundi's political crisis, which has sparked a series of killings and which many observers fear has moved the country toward a return to civil war.

At least 240 people have been killed since April when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would seek a third term, sparking violent street protests in the capital, Bujumbura.

Nkurunziza was eventually reelected in July elections, but the capital has remained unstable with gunfire and explosions frequently heard.

Many witnesses say the killings are the result of a government crackdown on opposition members.

FILE - A Burundian soldier with his gun and rocket launcher guard a deserted street in Bujumbura, Burundi, Nov. 8, 2015.

FILE - A Burundian soldier with his gun and rocket launcher guard a deserted street in Bujumbura, Burundi, Nov. 8, 2015.

Statements by Burundian officials last week echoed language used in the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda, where more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and Hutu moderates were slaughtered in a campaign orchestrated by Rwanda's Hutu-majority extremist government.

The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Thursday condemning the killings in Burundi and threatening sanctions. The resolution called for Burundi's government "to immediately convene an inclusive and genuine inter-Burundian dialogue."

Like Rwanda, Burundi has a history of tensions between its Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups and many observers are concerned that the current conflict, although it appears political, could degenerate into ethnic strife.

More than 200,000 Burundians have fled to neighboring countries since April, according to the U.N.

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