Five heads of state were appointed to convince the Burundi government to accept a peacekeeping force that its leader had previously rejected, the African Union said on Friday.
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 by the government of Burundi since April last year, according to the United Nations' figures, more than 240,000 people fled to neighbouring countries.
The bloc’s Peace and Security Council announced plans in December to deploy 5,000 troops, while claiming it could invoke an article of the African Union’s charter legally allowing it to intervene.
Nkurunziza opposes the plan, saying its deployment would amount to an invasion.
On Friday, members of a panel will travel to Burundi for talks with Nkurunziza with presidents Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz of Mauritania, Gabon's Ali Bongo, Macky Sall of Senegal, South Africa's Jacob Zuma, and Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn as part of the panel.
The bloc didn’t state when the panel would travel to the country.
The decision to form a panel was made last month at an AU summit after leaders sought Nkurunziza’s consent, which was declined.
The AU may also ask the UN Security Council to exert pressure with a possible threat of sanctions if Burundi refuses, a senior Western diplomat told Reuters.
African states are pressured from the West to intervene on preventing Burundi slide back into a civil war that ended a decade ago.