- Proposed deployment would be seen as attack, Nkurunziza says
- Nation's eight-month crisis has left at least 400 people dead
Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza said the country will defend itself against any peacekeepers the African Union plans to send to quell its eight-month political crisis.
“If these troops come, it will be seen as an attack and the country will stand up to defend itself,” Nkurunziza said in comments broadcast Wednesday on national radio. He said Burundi’s borders and sovereignty should be respected.
The African Union on Dec. 18 approved the deployment of as many as 5,000 peacekeepers to Burundi, where violence spurred by Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term has left more than 400 people dead since April.
The continental bloc gave Burundi four days to agree to the troops, a proposal the government and lawmakers quickly rejected. Two of the East African country’s neighbors, Rwanda and Tanzania, have already ruled out contributing soldiers to any force.
African Union troops can’t come without the United Nations’ consent, Nkurunziza said. He didn’t say if approval by the UN would then mean Burundi’s government would accept the deployment.
Some of Burundi’s political factions met in Uganda on Monday, in talks mediated by the East African Community. Burundi’s government that day said it wouldn’t accept the idea of Tanzania hosting further discussions starting next week.
Opponents say Nkurunziza’s July re-election violates a two-term limit set out in accords that ended a civil war in 2005. The country is home to 6 percent of the world’s nickel reserves.