The UN is less equipped to deal with violence in Burundi than it was for the Rwandan genocide, a UN human rights official has said.
Scott Campbell warned that the UN’s lack of peacekeeping presence in the country means it is less able to help.
He called on Burundi to control pro-government militias, which he says are responsible for much of the violence.
There have been protests in the country since President Pierre Nkurunziza said he would stand for a third term.
Opposition groups said the president’s move was unconstitutional. In July, Mr Nkurunziza was re-elected to a third term with 70% of the vote.
Speaking in Geneva, Mr Campbell, who is head of the UN’s human rights office for Central and West Africa, warned that Mr Nkurunziza – along with the president of the country’s Senate – had used language similar to that used in Rwanda before the 1994 genocide.
“It’s slipping and sliding we believe, unfortunately, down a very ugly slope,” he said.
“The (UN) Security Council is looking at how to react quickly should there be a need to move in forcefully with troops with preventive capacity.
“But I think there’s a huge lesson to be learned about the risks of being passive and actually withdrawing from situations of conflict.”
Regional countries and the African Union must do more to resolve the crisis, he added.
Around 252 people have been killed and 200,000 have fled to nearby states since April.