AU backs down on proposal to deploy troops to Burundi

New African Union Chairperson and President of Chad Idriss Déby

New African Union Chairperson and President of Chad Idriss Déby

The African Union Peace and Security Council is reconsidering its earlier decision to send peacekeeping troops to the conflict ravaged-nation of Burundi without the government’s consent.

The African Union’s U-turn follows Bujumbura’s government strong opposition to the continental body’s proposal to deploy 5,000 peacekeepers to Burundi to “protect civilians.”

Despite Burundi’s hostile stance against potential AU troop deployment, the latter had maintained it would press ahead and send in troops but the AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia has decided to shelve the controversial measure.

Addressing reporter at this weekend’s African Union Summit in Ethiopia, the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, Smail Chergui said they would not be sending troops to Burundi without the government’s consent, and that the body will be dispatching a delegation to Bujumbura to work out a compromise with the authorities.

“We want dialogue with the government of Burundi. The assembly has decided to send a high-level delegation to the country so they hold a dialogue,” Chergui told a press conference at the 26th African Union Summit Sunday.

Ever since the African Union passed the peacekeepers resolution in December, top government leaders in Burundi and ordinary citizens have voiced strong rejection of the move and President Pierre Nkurunziza is on record threatening to order the country’s military to attack AU’s “invading forces,” just in case they are deployed without Burundi’s consent.

The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, the United Nations Security Council and regional some leaders have urged Burundi to cooperate with the African Union but the tiny Central African Nation has not budged.

The turmoil in Burundi has claimed nearly 500 lives and over 240,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries as refugees.

The conflict in Burundi was among top issues on the agenda at the two-day Summit, other issues, included the crisis in South Sudan, and terror groups Boko Haram and Al Shabaab.

Also at the summit, Chad’s president, Idriss Deby was elected Chairperson of the African Union replacing Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.

“The African Union should be at the forefront to help our countries that are in crisis but also to promote peace, development and integration,” Deby said in his maiden address to the assembly.