April 16, 2015 / 1:25 AM / 5 years ago

U.N. chief voices concerns about pre-election violence in Burundi

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has voiced concerns about violence in the run-up to Burundi’s presidential election and urged the government to ensure the vote is free and fair, the United Nations said on Wednesday.

Ban on Tuesday met with Burundi’s Interior Minister Edouard Nduwimana, the U.N. press office said in a statement.

“(Ban) expressed his concern about the rising political tensions in the country and encouraged Burundians to resolve their political differences through dialogue and without resorting to violence,” the statement said.

“He also encouraged the government to ensure that all political actors are able to participate fully and freely in the electoral process,” the read-out of the meeting said, noting that Ban told Nduwimana “this would contribute to credible elections and reduce further tensions.”

A dispute over whether President Pierre Nkurunziza can run for a third term - he has not yet announced any such plan - has triggered the worst political crisis since the 12-year civil war in the east African nation ended in 2005.

Diplomats, activists and regional leaders have warned that tensions before the presidential poll could lead to unrest. Activists say Imbonerakure, the youth wing of Burundi’s ruling party, often harass and even kill opposition members.

The group has denied using violence and accused the opposition of trying to discredit it.

Opposition parties and dissenting members within the ruling CNDD-FDD party say Nkurunziza running for a third term would violate a 2000 deal that ended the conflict between Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups. Nkurunziza, in power since 2005, has not yet stated that he will run.

Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Bernard Orr

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