An African regional bloc has pulled its headquarters out of crisis-hit Burundi after months of violence to ensure the “safety and security of its staff,” it said in a statement.
“The situation in Burundi is seriously worrying,” the 12-nation International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) said in a statement seen Friday.
The bloc, based in Burundi since 2007, works to boost “peace, security, stability and development” in Africa’s Great Lakes region.
“Every week, if not every day, bodies are discovered in Bujumbura… there are also shootings and explosions of grenades,” top ICGLR official Ntumba Louaba said in a statement, warning of a risk of a “cycle of violence.”
Burundi descended into violence in April after President Pierre Nkurunziza launched a now successful bid for a third consecutive term in office, despite concerns over the legality of such a move.
At least 240 people have since been killed and more than 200,000 have fled the country.
“The situation in Burundi, particularly in Bujumbura has worsened and remains extremely volatile,” Louaba said.
“Members of my staff and myself are not feeling safe,” he added, with the bloc headquarters now temporarily relocating to the Zambian capital Lusaka.
Insurgents this week launched a failed mortar attack on Burundi’s presidential palace, in one of the first known such attempts in months of anti-government unrest.
The two shells, reportedly fired from the surrounding hills, exploded a few hundred metres (yards) from the complex, echoing attacks carried out during the 1993-2006 civil war. There were no casualties.
The government blames a string of attacks on “armed criminals”, but the UN has warned that Burundi risks sliding back into civil war after a dramatic rise in violence. Similar mortar blasts were reported in October.
As well as Burundi, ICGLR members are Angola, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia.