Burundi Says No To Peacekeepers — ‘Just Return Our Forces,’ Says Country's President, Who Claims It Will Be Considered An Invasion

Burundi, a tiny country in Africa, has strongly rejected entry to peacekeepers, which were about to be deployed by the African Union. The union intends to put an end to rising violence, but Burundi's President, Pierre Nkurunziza, has warned that the peacekeepers would be considered as "an invasion force," compelling the country to "act accordingly."

Burundi's government disagreed to the deployment of 5,000 African Union (AU) peacekeepers. The tiny African country, on the brink of another civil war, has confirmed that it will obstruct foreign troops that attempt to move into their border. The African Union had decided to deploy the regional peacekeeping force in order to rein in the rising violence in the country.

The African Union's Peace and Security Council agreed on Friday night to deploy an African Prevention and Protection Mission (MAPROBU) for an initial period of six months, reported Al Jazeera. The peacekeeping force will maintain their positions in the country primarily to protect the innocent civilians who have been caught in the political violence following the reelection of President Pierre Nkurunziza.

The elections weren't fair, claim regional activists, and there have been numerous disputes that might soon escalate into a civil war. Incidentally, this is the third time President Nkurunziza has won elections, but many have claimed foul play. There is a local law that prohibits a two-time president from running for a third term, but Nkurunziza did, and won.

Burundi Says No To Peacekeepers – 'Just Returns Our Forces' Says Country's President
[Photo by Landry Nshimiye/Getty Images]The AU has given Burundi a 96-hour window to fully cooperate with the decision. If the country doesn't willingly comply, the AU intends to send forces to intervene in the country without the government's permission, reported HNGN. Speaking about the decision to send in peacekeepers, the Peace and Security Council firmly stated the following.
"The African Union condemns all acts of violence, committed by whomsoever, and the persistence of impunity, as well as of the inflammatory statements made by Burundian political leaders. Africa will not allow another genocide to take place on its soil."
Despite the firm intention to send in 5,000 peacekeepers, the AU will still require authorization of the United Nations Security Council. However, given the steadily deteriorating condition in Burundi, the permission to deploy troops to stop the violence may be granted sooner rather than later.

Though the numbers vary wildly, multiple reports indicate at least 400 people have been killed since President Nkurunziza's third term started in April. In an attempt to stop the protests, more than 3,500 have been arrested in the political crisis, according to UN figures. Just last week, more than 80 people are believed to have been murdered, making it the bloodiest week since Nkurunziza's strongly disputed third term. According to official figures, more than 200,000 people have fled the country, trying to protect themselves from the violence, reported Gulf News.

Burundi Says No To Peacekeepers – 'Just Returns Our Forces' Says Country's President
[Photo by Carl De Souza/Getty Images]The violence is growing to resemble the bloody civil war the country went through between 1993 and 2003. Conflicts between rebels from the Hutu majority and an army dominated by minority Tutsis had resulted in the death of about 300,000 people, reported CNN.

While the AU appears firm, Burundi is adamant and has confirmed that it won't allow peacekeepers to set foot in the country. Speaking on the matter, deputy presidential spokesman Jean-Claude Karerwa said as follows.

"Burundi is clear on the matter: it is not ready to accept an AU force on its territory. If AU troops came without the government's approval, it would be an invasion and occupation force, and the Burundi government would reserve the right to act accordingly. The Burundi government believes the AU resolution cannot be automatically applied and must first be endorsed by the UN Security Council."
Nkurunziza's spokesman, Gervais Abayeho, added that the country has always contributed troops to "several African Union peacekeeping missions in Africa." He added that if AU feels the need to send peacekeepers, they should instead return their troops.

[Photo by Carl De Souza/Getty Images]