ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - The African Union sought to reassure Burundi on Friday that a plan to send peacekeepers there is meant to bring a peaceful end to eight months of violence, and is not part of any “other agenda.”
Earlier this month, the AU said it was ready to send 5,000 peacekeepers to Burundi to protect civilians caught up in the country’s worst crisis since it emerged from civil war a decade ago.
It would be the first time the bloc has invoked powers to deploy troops to a member country against its will. Burundi has said the proposed force is a violation of its sovereignty and that no troops will enter the country without its permission.
The AU said its head, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, had contacted President Pierre Nkurunziza to make clear that “the AU has no other agenda than to assist the government and people of Burundi at their hour of need, consistent with its commitment to promote African solutions to African problems”.
It said in a statement that Dlamini-Zuma had “expressed the AU’s readiness to rapidly initiate discussions with the government of Burundi to devise the best ways and means of facilitating the deployment of the mission, in a spirit of mutual understanding and cooperation”.
The crisis began in April when Nkurunziza announced he would seek a third term, sparking a failed coup and months of street protests.
The United Nations says at least 400 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands have fled the country. The violence has unnerved a region that remains volatile two decades after the genocide in neighbouring Rwanda.
Dlamini-Zuma called on Burundi’s feuding sides to cooperate with peace talks, which are scheduled to resume in Uganda on Dec. 28.
Reporting by Aaron Maasho; Editing by Edith Honan and Mark Trevelyan