AU approves 5000-strong peacekeeping force for Burundi

The Burundian military has been accused by residents of opposition strongholds of grabbing young men out of their homes and executing them

The Burundian military has been accused by residents of opposition strongholds of grabbing young men out of their homes and executing them

The African Union Peace and Security has approved a measure that would send 5000 peacekeepers to the conflict-wrecked nation of Burundi in an effort to halt the killings.

The African Union reached the agreement Thursday but the United Nation will have to first endorse it before it is implemented. “We have authorised the deployment of a 5,000-man force for Burundi whose mandate includes the protection of civilians … This resolution marks the first time the African Union decided to invoke its charter’s Article 4,” a diplomat close to the measure told Reuters.

This comes hours after the continental body announced it “will not allow another genocide to take place on its (African) soil.”

Latest upsurge in deadly violence in Bujumbura has heightened fears the Central African nation is on the brink of a civil war, a notion that is vehemently denied by the authorities in Bujumbura.

The government in Bujumbura also is strongly opposed to the imminent deployment of a peacekeeping force maintaining foreign troops would come in with ulterior and nefarious motives.

The opposition and ordinary Burundians caught up in the violence have been appealing to regional countries, the AU and the UN to come to their rescue by sending troops to put an end to the killings.

Last Saturday’s discovery of about 87 bodies on the streets and in the trenches of the capital Bujumbura pushed the death toll beyond 400. The conflict has also forced more than 220,000 people out their country to regional countries of DRC, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Refugees recruited

A new report by Refugees International came out this week claiming Rwanda was violating international law by recruiting and training Burundian refugees into non-state armed groups with intention of attacking their country militarily.

“In addition to repeated in-person or phone messages from recruiters, some of the refugees said they were followed around the camp by groups of young men. Others said they were subjected to verbal and written threats, with one told his ‘medicine is on the stove’ – meaning he would be dealt with imminently,” the report read in part.

Refugees International recommended Rwanda must ““ensure that all efforts to recruit Burundian refugees into armed groups – whether on or emanating from Rwandan territory, and whether committed by Burundian or Rwandan nationals – cease immediately.”

The Burundian government has long pointed a finger at Rwanda saying their neighbour to the north is fueling the conflict by hosting the leader of the May 13 failed coup and by training and arming refugees and supporting them to carry out cross-border attacks.

Rwanda has denied all these allegations saying “Burundi’s problem is not Rwanda, Burundi’s problem is Burundi.”