Ethiopia: AU Summit approves stabilisation force for Burundi

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) -The African Union (AU) has approved a stabilization mission  to protect civilians, human rights workers and disarm militias in  Burundi, but the crisis-hit country immediately rejected an AU Summit declaration on sending a high-level delegation to negotiate for Bujumbura’s consent.

AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Smail Chergui said here Sunday the AU Summit agreed to deploy a Stabilisation Force in Burundi, based on an earlier request by Burundi to be assisted to disarm militia groups, especially those operating from refugee camps.

“If the force is accepted, we want the dialogue. The (AU) Assembly has decided to send a High-Level Delegation to Burundi,” Chergui told reporters as the Assembly of the AU wound up its 26th Ordinary Session at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who also attended the Summit, said the UN had deployed a special political mission to Burundi to engage with the authorities on the peace talks.

“I have taken note of the AU decision to deploy 5,000 troops. It has not been agreed upon by Burundi,” the UN chief told reporters.

Insisting the UN was ready to back any decision reached by the AU on Burundi, Ban warned of a risk of escalation of the crisis unless the region moved quickly to deploy troops.

Once Burundi provides consent for the deployment of the force, the AU said it would position there to disarm militias, provide protection to civilians and facilitate the work of the human rights observers.

Although the composition of the High-Level Delegation was not immediately known, the AU said its objective would be to allay any fears of further violence in Burundi.

The Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the AU on Sunday presented a report to the AU Assembly, according to AU Commission Deputy Chairperson Erastus Mwencha.

“We did not say this is an occupation force. We are telling Burundi to create conditions for peace. We are not going to use force. We will not insist if we find out that the situation does not require us to send troops. The troops do not have to go. This is a developing issue,” Mwencha explained.

Meanwhile, Burundi's Foreign Affairs Minister, Alain Aime Nyamitwe, told PANA the central African nation was unfairly treated on 17 Dec 2015 when a decision was made to deploy AU troops to end civilian killings.

“We are an independent member state and there can be no troop deployment without our consent,” said Nyamitwe, who headed his country's delegation to the AU Summit.

A former ambassador to the AU, Nyamitwe said the decision to send the AU High-Level Delegation to Burundi was welcome. However, he said if the decision to have the delegation travel to Burundi was to discuss the troop deployment, "then the delegation has already failed."

While the AU Summit approved deployment of troops, it maintained that the final steps to send the force would depend on President Pierre Nkuzunziza’s permission.

A section of the AU Constitution does not allow the deployment of troops to a member state without approval because that would constitute a violation of sovereign rights.

But the newly elected AU Chair, President Idriss Deby Itno of Chad, maintained that under his leadership the AU would not allow thousands of people to die.

“I am not going to re-invent the wheel. I will act over the next 12 months. I will work in the interest of the African Union,” Deby told reporters.

-0- PANA AO/AR 31Jan2016

31 january 2016 14:38:11

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