Zuma says African Union will send monitors to Burundi

South Africa's president Jacob Zuma announces that African Union will send 200 monitors to troubled Burundi as land-locked African country has faced its worst political crisis since civil war

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

South African President Jacob Zuma (R) addresses a news conference next to Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza in Burundi's capital Bujumbura, February 26, 2016,

The African Union will send 100 human rights monitors and 100 military monitors to Burundi, South Africa's president Jacob Zuma said on Saturday, after a trip to the tiny nation that is facing its worst crisis since a civil war ended a decade ago.

Jacob Zuma, delivering a statement by a delegation of African leaders that he led, did not say when the monitors would arrive or start work in the country, where more than 400 people have been killed since April. Zuma left Bujumbura after the remarks.

The violence has rattled a region with a history of ethnic conflict. Burundi's civil war, that ended in 2005, largely pitted two ethnic groups against each other. Neighboring Rwanda was torn apart by genocide in 1994.

"We believe strongly that the solution to Burundi's political problems can be attained only through inclusive and peaceful dialogue," Zuma said in the statement, which also expressed "concerns" about the level of violence and killings.

The decision to send monitors suggests a compromise had been reached with Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza, who triggered the crisis in April when he announced a bid for a third term. He went on to win a disputed election in July, in the face of street protests and violent clashes.

The new initiative falls far short of the African Union's plan announced in December to send a 5,000-strong peacekeeping force, which Nkurunziza's government rejected.

Details about the new mission were not immediately clear. Diplomats said other African monitors that had been sent to Bujumbura last year had been stuck in their hotel unable to work because Burundi refused to sign a memorandum allowing them to operate.

Burundi's government has previously said it was ready to for dialogue, but opponents say it has always set preconditions on who would attend and what could be discussed that made such discussions pointless.

Talks sponsored by nearby Uganda in December had been planned to continue in Tanzania in January. But the initiative stumbled at the start of the year when the government said it would not attend as some participants had been behind violence.

For their part, opponents accuse government forces of targeting and killing members of the opposition.

The statement by African leaders said Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni would convene dialogue with "all important stakeholders as soon as possible." It did not say when.

TRTWorld, Reuters