Burundi rejects peacekeeping mission, says it will view deployment as attack

Pierre Nkurunziza’s run for third presidential term of African nation considered unconstitutional


An opposition demonstrator points a mock gun made from wood towards soldiers and tells them it is shameful to shoot on people who cannot defend themselves, in the Ngagara neighborhood of the capital Bujumbura, in Burundi in June 2015. Demonstrators opposed to President Pierre Nkurunziza have been met with violence in Burundi, where at least 400 people have been killed since the spring. (Gildas Ngingo/The Associated Press)

Burundi’s government on Saturday rejected the African Union’s plans to deploy a 5,000-strong peacekeeping force to stop escalating violence triggered by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s extended tenure in office, a government spokesman said.

If the African Union sends troops without Burundi’s consent it will be viewed as an attack, said government spokesman Philippe Nzobonariba. Burundi has enough forces to maintain peace, he said.

Burundi has been in turmoil since April when Nkurunziza’s candidacy for a third term was announced. Violence escalated following Nkurunziza’s re-election in July.

Nkurunziza’s third term was opposed by many Burundians and the international community, who say it violates the country’s constitutional two-term limit. Nkurunziza argues that his first term in office does not count because he was elected by parliament and not by the people.


Supporters of Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza carry his picture as they wait for him to return to the capital, at a street in Bujumbura, Burundi May 15, 2015. Nkurunziza is seeking a third term as president, despite a constitutional rule that limits presidencies to two terms. (Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)

Last week 87 people died when an unidentified group attacked three military installations. Burundi’s security forces responded by going on a rampage in parts of the capital, Bujumbura, regarded as centres of opposition.

Police and military are accused of dragging more than 150 civilians from their homes and shooting them at point blank range, according to human rights groups. Burundi’s government insists its troops acted professionally.

Peacekeeping efforts

In response to the violence, the African Union on Friday authorized sending a peacekeeping force to Burundi to stop the political violence. The African Prevention and Protection Mission will be deployed to Burundi for at least six months and its mission can be extended, the African Union’s Peace and Security Council said.

The force’s mandate will include protecting civilians under imminent threat and helping to create conditions for holding inter-Burundian dialogue. The African Union’s decision was unusual as it did not seek an invitation from Burundi’s government for the peacekeepers.

In another effort at mediation, Burundi’s fighting sides are to meet on Dec. 28 in Uganda to try to resolve the crisis, Uganda’s defence minister said Saturday.

At least 400 killed since April

Fourteen groups including Burundi’s ruling party, opposition parties and civil society organizations are to attend the talks aimed at ending the violent political unrest in which hundreds have been killed, said Crispus Kiyonga, who is also the facilitator of the peace talks mediated by the East African Community. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni will moderate the talks, he said.

However, the chances for these negotiations are not certain as it is not know if the Nkurunziza government will participate.

At least 400 people have been killed since April 26, when it was announced Nkurunziza would run for a third term, according to human rights groups. Nearly 3,500 people have been arrested in the political crisis and 220,000 people have fled the country.