Pope prays for strife-torn Burundi

Pope Francis arrives to lead a mass in Kampala, Uganda.
Pope Francis arrives to lead a mass in Kampala, Uganda.REUTERS

KAMPALA (AFP) - Pope Francis prayed for peace in the troubled central African nation of Burundi on Saturday and an end to months of strife that has sparked fears of renewed civil war.

"Sadly, there are many troubling situations in our world for which we must pray, beginning with realities closest to us," Francis told a meeting of priests, nuns and religious students in the Ugandan capital Kampala.

"I pray especially for the beloved people of Burundi, that the Lord may awaken in their leaders and in society as a whole a commitment to dialogue and cooperation, reconciliation and peace," the pontiff said.

Burundi descended into violence in April after President Pierre Nkurunziza launched a successful bid for a third consecutive term in office, despite concerns over the legality of such a move.

At least 240 people have been killed and more than 200,000 have fled the country since.

Burundi's 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.

Armed clashes between gunmen and security forces are a near daily event.

Pope Francis wraps up the Uganda leg of his African tour on Sunday after euphoric celebrations by heading to his most dangerous destination, conflict-ridden Central African Republic.