Burundi's senate president has come under fire over recorded remarks of him placing a price on the head of a man accused of training militias at the height of the country's 2015 political crisis.
In comments recorded earlier in September, verified by AFP Thursday, senate chief Reverien Ndikuriyo, admitted he offered 2,450 euros ($2,600) for a former soldier he accused of providing military training to be brought to him "dead or alive".
"The president of the senate said these things because he couldn't accept that this man was destabilising the (southern) town of Matana," his spokesman Gabby Bugaga told AFP Thursday, confirming the recording's authenticity.
Speaking during a public rally in the northern town of Marangara, Ndikuriyo recalled visiting the town of Matana where many protested President Pierre Nkurunziza's third term bid, which plunged the country into crisis.
"There was a man called Kabirumbo who had a health centre where he was giving people military training. When I went there I said 'I want Kabirumbo, dead or alive for five million (Burundian francs)," he said.
"I promised five million if someone brought me his head and it became a competition. A person has no right to disturb the security of a town, and must be eliminated if this is the case."
The recording has spread on social media in recent days, with members of the opposition and civil society denouncing the "call to murder".
"Nothing happened to Kaburimbo because he fled the country when he heard (of the recording). He is still alive," Bugaga told AFP.
Ndikuriyo, who is the third most powerful official in the country, came under fire in 2015 for threatening to "pulverise" regime opponents who do not lay down arms.
At least 1,200 people were killed in violence in the wake of the 2015 election in which Nkurunziza was re-elected, and more than 400,000 were displaced in violence between April 2015 and May 2017 the UN says was mostly carried out by state security forces.
A team of investigators from the United Nations earlier this month warned of a climate of fear in Burundi ahead of 2020 elections, with crimes against humanity and other serious violations continuing with impunity.