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African Union Official Defends Burundi Force Decision

Police arrest a man following grenade attacks in the capital Bujumbura, Burundi Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016.

The deputy chairman of the African Union (AU) Commission said the commission, contrary to Burundi opposition claims, did not abandon the people of Burundi at last week's AU summit by its failure to send peacekeepers to the country.

The exiled leader of the opposition Front for Democracy in Burundi (FRODEBU) accused the African Union and the international community of turning their backs on the people of Burundi while people were being killed by the government of President Pierre Nkurunziza.

Unrest in the country began when President Nkurunziza said he wanted a third term in office which is contrary to the two term limit in the country's constitution.

No peacekeeping troops to Burundi for now

AU deputy chairman Erastus Mwencha said the African leaders discussed Burundi in detail and decided to first give the dialogue process a chance before sending the peacekeepers.

“Burundi was indeed actually discussed. Burundi made a case and the Peace and Security Council made its case. Of course government officials of Burundi indicated that they are making progress in all-inclusive talks and that peace and security is improving, and the member states decided to give them the benefit of the doubt,” he said.

Delegation of African leaders to deal with Burundi

Mwencha said the African leaders want to set up a high-level delegation of African leaders to travel to Burundi and meet with officials about sending peacekeeping troops. Mwencha said the African Union is not trying to force itself into Burundi.

“We still believe that the government has competence and capacity to change the situation on the ground, and we hope that the signals that they are getting from the international community about the concerns are impetus enough for Burundi to really make sure that peace and security returns, there is reconciliation, and the country returns to normalcy,” Mwencha said.

Opposition not impressed

The exiled leader of FRODEBU Jean Minani told VOA last week that the African Union and the international community had turned their backs on the people of Burundi while, he said the people were being killed by the government of President Pierre Nkurunziza.

Mwencha said he urged Minani to carefully read the communique of the AU summit.

The African Union said on Friday it had appointed five heads of state to try to convince the government of Burundi to accept a peacekeeping force that its leader has rejected.

Violence in Burundi continues

Meanwhile, four people were killed on Saturday night, including a child selling boiled eggs at a bar, when three grenades exploded in the capital Bujumbura, residents said.

At least five people, including security personnel, were killed in separate attacks on Friday. FRODEBU claimed on Saturday its fighters were involved in the Friday killings.

Nine months of violence sparked by President Pierre Nkurunziza's bid for a third term has left more than 400 people dead in a country that emerged from an ethnically charged civil war in 2005.