Burundian government representative Philippe Nzobonariba Saturday warned the African Union against deploying 5,000 peacekeepers to curb intensifying violence in the East African country. Nzobonariba said his nation has enough troops to maintain peace, and sending forces without the government’s consent will be viewed as an attack on Burundi, the Associated Press reported.
A 54-member regional bloc, the African Union announced its plan Friday to send a peacekeeping force to protect civilians in war-torn Burundi and gave the government 96 hours to respond. However, the proposed mission still needs a green light from the United Nations Security Council, CNN said.
The ongoing crisis in Burundi began in April when President Pierre Nkurunziza, a former Hutu rebel, said he would run for a third term. Critics said Nkurunziza was violating the constitution and a peace deal that ended 12 years of civil war between Burundi’s Hutu majority and its Tutsi minority. Demonstrations against Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term broke out, and violent clashes erupted between protesters and forces loyal to the ruling party. A failed coup d'etat escalated the violence in May. More than 200,000 people have been displaced during the current conflict.
Nkurunziza’s landslide victory in the June presidential election fueled fresh demonstrations and attacks in the capital Bujumbura. Dozens have been killed since then, including Burundian opposition figures and supporters, as well as a former army chief and a former intelligence chief. Leading Burundian human-rights activist Pierre Claver Mbonimpa was shot and seriously wounded in August by gunmen on motorbikes in the capital. Despite the attacks, Nkurunziza was sworn in during a low-key inauguration ceremony in August.
A Paris-based human-rights group has accused Burundi’s police of unlawful killings in the latest attacks. Security forces loyal to Nkurunziza conducted sweeping raids and arrests in areas of Bujumbura after unidentified gunmen attacked military barracks Dec. 11. At least 300 young men were seized, with more than one-half allegedly killed and the remainder missing, the International Federation for Human Rights and the Ligue Iteka said in a statement Wednesday. Burundi’s military has downplayed the death toll, saying 87 people were killed and 49 were captured, BBC News reported.