African Union Abandons Plans to Deploy Peacekeepers to BurundiFebruary 2, 2016 in Burundi
The African Union (AU) has abandoned its plan to deploy 5,000 peacekeepers to help restore stability to troubled Burundi. Officials have disclosed that they would instead encourage political dialogue between Burundi’s opposing sides. Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza had fiercely opposed the AU’s plans to deploy 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. According to United Nations figures, 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 effectively allows it to intervene in a member state because of grave circumstances, which include war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity, however it would have been the first time it had done so. Top AU diplomat Ibrahima Fall has disclosed that such a move would have been “unimaginable.” After the bloc’s meeting in Ethiopia, AU Peace and Security Council Chief Smail Chergui stated that “we want dialogue with the government, and the summit decided to dispatch a high-level delegation.”
The announcement comes just days after human rights group Amnesty International published satellite images last week, stating that the images were believed to be five mass graves near Burundi’s capital, where security forces were accused of killing scores of people in December 2015. A fact-finding mission by the AU has reported arbitrary killings, torture and the “closure of some civil society organizations and the media.”
Timeline of Events
- April 2015: Protests erupt after President Pierre Nkurunziza announces that he will seek a third term in office.
- May 2015: Constitutional court rules in favor of Mr Nkurunziza, amidst reports of judges being intimidated. Tens of thousands flee violence amidst protests.
- May 2015: Army officers launch a coup attempt, which ultimately fails.
- July 2015: Elections are held, with Mr Nkurunziza re-elected. The polls are disputed, with opposition leader Agathon Rwasa describing them as “a joke.”
- November 2015: Burundi government gives those opposing President Nkurunzia’s third term five days in order to surrender their weapons ahead of a promised crackdown.
- November 2015: UN warns it is less equipped to deal with violence in Burundi than it was for the Rwandan genocide.
- December 2015: 87 people killed on one day as soldiers respond to an attack on military sites in Bujumbura.
- January 2016: Amnesty International publishes satellite images which it says are believed to be mass grave located close to where December’s killings took place.