Some African states oppose AU peace force for Burundi - Gambian pres.

Sun Jan 31, 2016 7:40am GMT

By Aaron Maasho and Edmund Blair

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Some African states oppose sending peacekeepers to Burundi without its consent after it said that would be seen as an invasion, Gambia's president said on Saturday at the start of an African Union summit.

Rifts in Africa about whether to deploy the 5,000-strong force will worry Western powers and others, who fear Burundi will slide into ethnic conflict if there is no intervention.

The African Union's peace and security council announced the plan for the force in December, but Burundi swiftly rejected it.

The AU charter allows a force to be sent against the will of a host country if there is a risk of serious violence, such as genocide. But some African leaders may be concerned about setting a precedent that could be turned on them, experts say.

"It is not only Burundi that is resisting that idea," Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh told reporters at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa when asked if there was opposition to the plan for peacekeepers. He did not name any nations.

Asked if Gambia was among them, he said: "Without the consent of Burundi, yes."

Burundi, facing its worst crisis since an ethnically charged civil war ended in 2005, is high on the agenda for the two-day summit as violence that has killed hundreds of people rattles a region where memories of Rwanda's 1994 genocide are still raw.

Officials have said African leaders would try to persuade President Pierre Nkurunziza - who triggered the crisis by standing for a disputed third term in July elections - to accept such a force. They also said they were unlikely to succeed.   Continued...

Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh and his wife Zineb Jammeh arrive for the official U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit dinner at the White House in Washington, in this August 5, 2014 file picture. REUTERS/Larry Downing/Files
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