Burundi: tug of war as government rejects AU peacekeeping proposal

President Pierre Nkurunziza's third term bid sparked off the current conflict

President Pierre Nkurunziza’s third term bid sparked off the current conflict

The Burundian government has rejected the imminent deployment of African Union peacekeeping troops to the Central African nation threatening to attack “invaders” if AU goes ahead and sends in peacekeepers.

Bujumbura’s strong opposition comes 24 hours after the African Union Peace and Security Council reached an agreement to mobilise and send in 5000 peacekeeping troops to Burundi to help protect civilians against the deadly violence that has blighted Burundi since April.

“Burundi is clear on the matter: it is not ready to accept an AU force on its territory,” President Pierre Nkurunziza’s deputy spokesman Jean Claude Karerwa told AFP Sunday.

Mr. Karera warned “If AU troops came without the government’s approval, it would be an invasion and occupation force, and the Burundi government would reserve the right to act accordingly.”

Various Burundi government officials have come out and threatened the government in Bujumbura will not cooperate with the African Union as regards the deployment of peacekeepers in Burundi.

“We will not allow foreign troops in Burundi. We don’t need them,” Gervais Abayeho, Nkuruziza’s spokesman was quoted as saying.

The UN Security council and the African Union have issued Burundi a four-day window to accept the looming deployment and warned the continental body would go ahead and send in troops even with out the government’s consent.

Despite the fact that last week, Bujumbura experienced the deadliest period since the conflict began in April, when nearly 90 people lost their lives, the government maintains the country’s security forces are capable of protecting civilians.

Burundi’s police and the military have been accused by residents of several opposition strongholds of Bujumbura, of picking up young men from their homes at night and executing them but the government says those who they kill are “assailants.”

Friday’s deal by the AU resolved to deploy 5000 African Prevention and Protection Mission (MAPROBU) troops for an provisional six-month period eligible for renewal, but Burundi says it has been left out in the discussions about the issue.

“Troops cannot be deployed into a country without a prior notification and consent,” government spokesman Philippe Nzobonariba said Sunday adding instead of sending troops to Burundi, AU should send them to refugee camps in Rwanda.

A report came out earlier this week indicating Rwanda was recruiting and training Burundian refugees and sending them back to Burundi to launch attacks against the government.

The conflict in Burundi has thus far killed over 400 people and forced more than 220,000 out of Burundi as they languish in refugee camps in Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and DRC.