Africa News

African Union Says It Could Send 5,000 Peacekeepers to Burundi

The African Union said Friday it agreed with the idea of deploying peacekeepers to Burundi to prevent “another genocide” in the country.

The 54-member group said it could send up to 5,000 troops to Burundi but any deployment would have to be approved by Burundi, which has resisted the idea of peacekeepers, or by a vote of AU leaders and the United Nations Security Council.

The U.N. has warned Burundi could be headed for civil war. “Burundi is at bursting point, on the very cusp of a civil war,” Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said Thursday at a special session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. The international community must take “robust, decisive action” to prevent the current conflict from escalating into an outright civil war, he said.

The current conflict began when President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to run for a third term this year. The U.N. estimates at least 400 people have been killed and 220,000 have fled the country.

At least 87 people, including security personnel, were killed last weekend in the worst violence the Burundian capital has seen since a failed coup attempt in May.

Although bodies on the streets are an almost daily occurrence in Bujumbura, it was “by far the largest number of deaths in one night,” BBC Africa analyst Richard Hamilton said.

An eyewitness told the Associated Press he counted 21 bodies with bullet wounds in their heads in Bujumbura’s Nyakabiga neighborhood.

Some of the dead had their hands tied behind their backs, said the witness, who insisted on anonymity due to safety concerns. Another witness described some of the victims as “kids” and said they had been shot execution style.

Residents have accused police of taking revenge for attacks on military sites earlier in the week. Police responded to the insurgent attacks “with house searches, arrests and alleged summary executions,” Reuters reported.

As many as 300,000 people were killed in Burundi’s civil war between 1993 and 2005, according to the International Crisis Group, a non-governmental organization that documents violent conflict.

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