Burundi: thousands march against foreign troop deployment

NO THANK YOU: Burundians marching on Bujumbura streets Saturday. They were protesting a recent resolution by the African Union to deploy 5000 troops to Burundi

NO THANK YOU: Burundians marching on Bujumbura streets Saturday. They were protesting a recent resolution by the African Union to deploy 5000 troops to Burundi

Thousands of Burundians took to the streets Saturday to demonstrate against the African Union proposal to deploy 5000 peacekeeping troops to the Central Africa nation.

Waving placards with messages disapproving of AU’s recent resolution, protesters across the country marched demanding the continent body to rescind the decision.

The Burundians message to the AU was clear; Burundi has enough and capable forces able to protect its people, thus no need of sending in foreign troops.

Several top leaders joined in with citizens in different provinces to encourage marchers and to galvanize anti-AU troop deployment protests.

The nationwide protests were led by Gaston Sindimwo, the 1st Vice President of Burundi; he said the protests were organized as a response to the appeal made by Burundian citizens via their representatives who recently rejected AU proposal. He went on to say the decision is a pure violation of the country’s sovereignty, which cannot be accepted.

“We would like to inform everyone that no troops will enter our territory without the consent of the government, our security and defense forces are able to protect all citizens,” he said to the crowd gathered on the shores of Lake Tanganyika.

The 1st Vice President declared foreign troops would be treated as criminals and invaders.

“The world has to understand that Burundi will fight any criminals as all other countries do when they are invaded,” Sindimwo said.

Pascal Nyabenda, Burundi’s National Assembly Speaker who joined marchers in Gitega Province, said foreign troops have been requested by those who want to topple elected institutions.

“They (opposition and rebels) have demanded foreign troops because all means put in place to overthrow elected institutions have failed. They need a support, additional forces to place in Nyakabiga, Jabe, Musaga and elsewhere so that they can help them topple institutions that you elected,” he told marchers at Itaba Commune.

Mr. Nyabenda charged, those who speak of genocide are the ones who want it to happen so that it can serve their selfish political interests.

Protesters, most of them members of the ruling CNDD-FDD and supporters of President Pierre Nkurunziza, were unhappy with the AU’s decision which, according to some, was taken without consulting the Burundian people.

“The only problem with decision makers is that they ignore ordinary citizens before taking such a decision. We really disapprove of it because it’s constructed on wrong information received from those ill-willed Burundians,” Saidi Hatungimana, one of the protesters at the shores of Lake Tanganyika, told Afrika Reporter.

Hatungimana, like many protesters wondered AU would consider sending troops to Burundi yet Burundian troops are deployed in other African countries in various peacekeeping missions.

“I fear that these foreign troops might be sent to Burundi to help politicians who left the country after creating chaos in our country so as they can seize power by force,” said one protester interviewed by the National Radio.

Burundians rally against AU troop proposal

Burundians rally against AU troop proposal

Following the December 11 armed attacks on four military installations in the capital Bujumbura, and subsequent discovery of 87 dead bodies across the city, the AU Peace and Security Council resolve to send 5000 troops to Burundi to protect civilians.

The Burundian security forces have been accused of carrying out collateral killings, they have denied the accusations and the Burundian people protesting Saturday were siding with their military.

“Burundian military are Burundian children who are entitled to defend the country against enemies. Whoever invades their barracks has to be combated, regardless of their ethnic origins. They fought the enemy and not an ethnic group,” said a protester from Rugombo, in the north-western province of Cibitoke, in support of Burundian army.

The massive protest came after the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma had written to President Pierre Nkurunziza urging him to accept the proposed deployment of peacekeeping troops saying the troops will have no any “ulterior motives.”

Meanwhile, the long awaited dialogue between political stakeholders in the 8 month conflict is due to open Monday December 28, in Entebbe Uganda under the mediation of President Yoweri Museveni.