Africa Union Approves 5,000-Strong Peacekeeper Force for Burundi

The African Union approved the deployment of as many as 5,000 peacekeepers to Burundi to halt violence spurred by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s re-election that has left more than 400 people dead.

The AU asked member states to begin contributing troops and resources, and the United Nations Security Council to lend its support, according to an e-mailed statement from the pan-African group’s Peace and Security Council. It said Burundi’s government should confirm within four days that it accepts the deployment, and warned that Burundian officials who don’t cooperate may face sanctions.

The plans come a week after the single bloodiest day in the East African nation’s eight-month crisis, when armed attacks on military barracks in the capital, Bujumbura, prompted security forces to sweep neighborhoods for opponents. While the army said 87 people died on Dec. 11, the Paris-based Worldwide Movement for Human Rights alleged that at least 154 civilians were killed.

Violence in landlocked Burundi, which holds 6 percent of the world’s nickel reserves, erupted in April after Nkurunziza announced he would seek a third term in elections, which he later won. Opponents say he violated a two-term limit in a 2005 peace deal that ended a civil war.

‘Not Needed’

Burundi Foreign Minister Alain Aime Nyamitwe said late Thursday that peacekeepers aren’t needed. The country’s general prosecutor says it has appointed judges to investigate allegations of human-rights abuses, including the events of Dec.

11.

The United Nations human rights agency said this week that the latest bloodshed showed Burundi had taken “a new step towards outright civil war,” with tensions “at bursting point” in the capital.

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