The African Union will be violating Burundi’s sovereignty if it goes ahead with plans to send in about 5,000 peacekeeping troops to the country to protect civilians and help restore peace, presidential adviser Willy Nyamitwe said.
The AU’s Peace and Security Council approved sending peacekeepers to Burundi on Thursday to review the current situation in the central African country.
The African Union decided to send in a peacekeeping force to control violence that has been escalating in Burundi since President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he was running for an additional term of office, and his subsequent re-election.
Concern about violence peaked after after unknown gunmen attacked military sites last week in the capital, Bujumbura.
But the government in Bujumbura says it is not consenting to the arrival of foreign troops – its right under AU protocols.
Nyamitwe said security agencies including the army and the police are capable of protecting unarmed civilians as well as ensuring Burundi’s territorial integrity. Despite reports that over 200,000 people have fled from Burundi as refugees, Nyamitwe said the country is “peaceful.”
“First of all,” Nyamitwe said, “Burundi is a sovereign country, and they cannot send troops to Burundi without the commitment from Burundi. … It’s not yet a decision from the African Union because the heads of state have to decide [on this], not only the Peace and Security Council.”
“We don’t even understand how people can think sending 5,000 troops in Burundi when in DRC they sent 3,000 [troops] to kick out the M23 [rebels]. But we do believe they should send troops maybe in Rwanda rather than sending them in Burundi because there are reports people are being trained in Rwanda in order to come and disturb the peace in Burundi so they have to send troops there not to send them in Burundi where we are at pace.“
The presidential adviser contends a few Burundians who are trying to destabilize the country are to blame for the recent problems, but says that security agencies are dealing with the ongoing violence in a bid to restore peace.
No international troops
Nyamitwe vowed the Bujumbura government will not accept any international troops: “This will never, ever happen in our country.”
Civil society groups and opposition parties say President Nkurunziza and members of his government are to blame for the growing insecurity in the country. They welcomed the proposal from the AU Peace and Security Council to send peacekeepers to Burundi to protect civilians.
They repeatedly called for an international intervention to restore peace and security to Burundi after expressing concern about a possible genocide.
“Those to blame are all the attackers who are coming to destabilize the peace in our country. Those to blame are the countries who are hosting the coup plotters who run away. …So we cannot blame Burundi for respecting its own laws. This is not fair,” said Nyamitwe.
“Those who are bringing the issue of genocide [are] only in their minds. There is no genocide in Burundi. … We have been trying to emphasize that in Burundi never again will we have a war or fighting between ethnic groups,” he said, adding, “those who attacked the military sites, they are being fought by the army and the police altogether. But, we find in the army all ethnic groups – Hutus and Tutsis – are there. So who can say there is any threat of genocide in Burundi? Those who are saying this negative narrative are enemies of Burundi.”