The African Union has abandoned its plan to send 5,000 peacekeepers to stop ongoing violence in Burundi.It rather plans to encourage political dialogue between Burundi’s opposing sides.
Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza had fiercely opposed the AU plan’s to send peacekeepers.
AU Peace and Security Council chief Smail Chergui said: “We want dialogue with the government, and the summit decided to dispatch a high-level delegation.”
At least 230,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries and about 439 people have died.
The AU could have deployed troops without Burundi’s consent – a clause in its charter allows it to intervene in a member state because of grave circumstances, which include war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity – but it would have been the first time it had done so.
Burundi has consistently opposed the idea of the AU’s planned 5,000-strong peacekeeping mission, saying the deployment of troops without its express permission would be tantamount to an “invasion force”.
Chad’s President Idriss Deby, speaking after he took over the post of African Union chairman on Saturday, warned colleagues against inaction saying: “Our organisation acts as it has for the past 20 or 30 years: we meet often, we talk too much, we always write a lot, but we don’t do enough, and sometimes nothing all”.
Earlier this week, human rights group Amnesty International published satellite images it said were believed to be five mass graves near Burundi’s capital, where security forces were accused of killing scores of people in December.
A fact-finding mission by the AU has reported arbitrary killings, torture and the “closure of some civil society organisations and the media”.
Mr Nkurunziza is the former leader of a Hutu rebel group, who has been in power since a 2005 peace deal. Both the government and the opposition are ethnically mixed.
Ethnic conflict between Hutus and Tutsis in the 1990s claimed an estimated 300,000 lives.
Credit: The African Reporters