No sending of peacekeepers to Burundi - AU

No sending of peacekeepers to Burundi - AU

The African Union has reneged on its decision to send 5,000 peacekeepers to help restore stability to troubled Burundi.

This new decision is to rather encourage political dialogue between Burundi's opposing sides.

Burundi's President, Pierre Nkurunziza, had fiercely opposed the AU plan's to send peacekeepers. His decision last April to seek a third term in office has led to ongoing violence and fears that Burundi is sliding into ethnic conflict.

The UN says that at least 439 people have died and 240,000 have fled abroad since last April. 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.

Top AU diplomat, Ibrahima Fall, said such a move would have been "unimaginable".

AU Peace and Security Council Chief Smail Chergui said, after the bloc's meeting in Ethiopia: "We want dialogue with the government, and the summit decided to dispatch a high-level delegation."

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 also 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.



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