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African Union Against Military Takeovers, Says Official

Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza, center, is escorted on his way to the Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, May 13, 2015.
Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza, center, is escorted on his way to the Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, May 13, 2015.

The African Union (AU) will not accept or recognize any military regime that comes to power through unconstitutional means, according to Aisha Laraba Abdullahi, the AU's commissioner for political affairs.

She called for calm as the continental body works with regional leaders from the East African Community (EAC) to find a solution to the political crisis in Burundi.

Last week, the AU sent a delegation led by former Togolese Prime Minister Edem Kojo to ascertain the situation on the ground, several days before General Godefroid Niyombare announced he had ousted Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza.

"The African Union has called for peace but has, however, condemned the attempted military takeover because it is unconstitutional and it is against our democratic principles," she said.

The AU has called for a postponement of the election citing unrest in the country after demonstrators kicked against President Nkurunziza's controversial decision to seek a third term.

Abdullahi said the AU anticipated that the conditions on the ground were not conducive to administer free and fair elections.

"The African Union had already washed its hands off the Burundian election, noting the facts that exist currently do not provide for an atmosphere for holding credible polls. The African Union has called for a postponement of the election…We are following the issues there closely," said Abdullahi.

She said the AU supports efforts of the regional bloc to help resolve the crisis in Burundi. This, after pro-Nkurunziza supporters and supporters of the attempted coup battled in the capital, Bujumbura, on Thursday.

"The African Union is supporting the efforts of the [EAC], as you know our regional economic communities are our building blocks, and when issues like this arise we work together with the regional economic community, this time the [EAC] and the leaders, of course," she said.

"The leaders met yesterday and from the communiqué we feel that the Arusha Accord, which has provided the foundation for peace and power-sharing in Burundi, should be respected," said Abdullahi.

"And it clearly calls for only two terms for a president and this was made very clear. One the other hand, the position of the AU and the EAC is that the military coup should not be encouraged, and we should look for a constitutional arrangement in case there is a need for any transition."

Burundi was scheduled to hold legislative elections this month and the presidential poll in June.

But, some experts say there is a need for an international peacekeeping force to intervene to help restore peace in Burundi. They also are calling for a snap election, saying that Nkurunziza should be prevented from participating in the anticipated election. Abdullahi disagreed with the calls for a snap election due to the current crisis in Burundi.

"I don't think there is any need for a snap election…Considering the turmoil and the turbulence in the country…We are advising that the election calendar be reviewed and the elections be postponed. We are calling for calm, and as long as the country is calm and peaceful then we can have the polls this year."

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