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Burundi Rejects AU Force Deployment

Suspected fighters are paraded before the media by Burundian police near a recovered cache of weapons after clashes in the capital Bujumbura, Burundi, Dec. 12, 2015.

Burundi has rejected a 5,000 member peacekeeping mission the African Union said last week it would send to the country amid fears it is sliding back towards civil war.

Burundi’s National Security Council (NSC) -- including President Pierre Nkurunziza and his entire cabinet rejected the proposed force on Tuesday. A day earlier, the Burundian parliament said it would be considered an invasion force.

Foreign Minister Alain Nyamitwe criticized the African Union for not consulting his government before deciding on sending peacekeepers.

“The decision of the Peace and Security Council contained a provision by which the government of the Republic of Burundi has to have a say in the deployment of those troops. In reality the decision itself was that the government of the Republic of Burundi was to be by the AU, but it has not happened and we do regret it so very much because it is contrary to good diplomatic practices,” he said.

African Union Commission deputy chairman Erastus Mwencha told VOA Tuesday the AU Peace and Security Council heard the views of the Burundian government before it reached the decision to deploy troops.

But Nyamitwe said, despite the fact that Burundi is chair of the African Peace and Security Council for the month of December, the country was never consulted.

Mwencha said the job of any government is to protect its citizens, but he said the Burundian government has not shown it can protect all its citizens.

“It’s obvious everybody is aware that people are dying in Burundi, people dying in the streets, bodies being collected in some of the environs of Bujumbura, and the African Union force, if you look at the mandate, it is a prevention and protection. And that is really the responsibility of any government but which we see is not happening. But if the situation continues, the African Union and international community cannot sit by and watch genocide if it is going to develop into that genocide,” Mwencha said.

Nyamitwe was critical of the use of the word genocide, and said his government has never denied that it has problems, but he said it decided to restore security using the means it believed were warranted following what he called an insurrection.

“I do not know whether you and I understand the word genocide in the same way. But if you check the dictionary the word genocide will refer to the extermination of one group either because of their ethnicity, race, color, or religion by the state or by another group. I do not know whether what is going on Burundi would be considered as genocide,” Nyamitwe said.