African Union to send envoy to Burundi instead of troops

Instead of deploying peacekeeping forces, African Union decides to send diplomatic mission for negotiation with Burundi's government to end deadly violence in country

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

UN Secretary General, Ban ki-Moon gives an address at the 26th presidential summit of the African Union on January 30, 2016 in Addis Ababa.

African leaders on Sunday rejected a proposal to deploy the 5,000 peacekeeping force in troubled Burundi at the 24th African Union Summit that began on Friday in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa.

Instead of deploying peacekeeping troops, the African Union will send a diplomatic mission to negotiate with Burundi's government despite previous diplomatic negotiations not bringing a significant effect to end the Burundian crisis.

Burundi disagreed with the AU's proposal of sending troops, as Burundi's government declared previously that the deployment of peacekeeping troops without government's permission is an “invasion force.”

According to the AU charter's Article 4 (h), the African Union has a right to intervene in an African country "in respect of grave circumstances, namely: war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity."

"We have said that the deployment of this force is not justified, and we gave the reasons for this rejection, that we believe the situation in the country is under control," Burundian Foreign Minister Alain Nyamitwe said.

After the proposal dropped, Nyamitwe told reports that he was "satisfied" with the decision and said Bujumbura’s government is “open to cooperating with the international community, particularly the African Union."

However, AU Peace and Security Council Chief Smail Chergui said that there will be neither an occupy nor an attack, and added that troops will be sent in the future “if Burundi accepts it.”

A protester wearing a gas mask and holding a sign that reads "Stop the third mandate" chants near a burning barricade in the Mugasa neighbourhood of Bujumbura

Violence in Burundi

Burundi has been in a cycle of deadly violence since President Pierre Nkurunziza’s victory in a disputed election following his decision to seek a third term despite a constitutional two-term limit.

At least 400 people have been killed and about 3,500 arrested in Burundi, under the government crackdown, since April last year, according to the United Nations figures. Also more than 240,000 people fled to neighbouring countries, fearing a possible genocide.

There was a civil war in Burundi from 1993 to 2005 and approximately 300,000 people died in the conflict between rebels from the country's majority Hutu population and an army dominated by the Tutsi minority.

African Union and United Nations previously warned possible tribal war and genocide in Burundi.

Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza has vowed to fight the African Union on a military level.

Ban ki-Moon: Forces are needed

However, the United Nations Secretary-General Ba Ki-moon attended the AU meeting, making it clear that peacekeeping forces are needed to end escalated violence.

Ban Ki-Moon, said that the UN backed the AU's proposal "to deploy human rights observers and to establish a prevention and protection mission" in Burundi.

He also urged African "leaders who stand by while civilians are slaughtered in their name must be held responsible."

'We talk too much'

Chad's President Idriss Deby was elected as AU chairman, replacing Zimbabwe's President, Robert Mugabe.

Deby criticised the inaction of African leaders in his speech at the opening of the 26th AU Summit in Addis Aaba, Ethiopia.

"Our organisation acts as it has for the past 20 or 30 years: we meet often, we talk too much, we always write a lot, but we don't do enough, and sometimes nothing all," Deby said.

TRTWorld and agencies