Some African states oppose peacekeepers in Burundi – Gambian president

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh

Some African states oppose sending peacekeepers to Burundi without its consent after it said that would be seen as an invasion, Gambia’s president said on Saturday at the start of an African Union summit.

Concerns about whether to deploy the 5,000-strong force have worried Western interests, that fear Burundi could slide into ethnic conflict if there is no intervention.

The African Union’s peace and security council announced the plan for the force in December, but Burundi swiftly rejected it.

The AU charter allows a force to be sent against the will of a host country if there is a risk of serious violence, such as genocide.

“It is not only Burundi that is resisting that idea,” Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh told reporters at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa when asked if there was opposition to the plan for peacekeepers. He did not name any nations.

Asked if Gambia was among them, he said: “Without the consent of Burundi, yes.”

Burundi, facing a crisis since an ethnically charged civil war ended in 2005, is high on the agenda for the two-day summit.

Officials have said African leaders would try to persuade President Pierre Nkurunziza – who triggered the crisis by standing for a disputed third term in July elections – to accept such a force. They also said they were unlikely to succeed.

“When it comes to troops, our position has not changed. It is a no-go area under any conditions,” Burundi’s Foreign Minister Alain Nyamitwe told reporters in Addis Ababa.

Leaders from the 15 members of the council met on Friday in a bid to resolve differences but failed to reach a decision, said Smail Chergui, the AU’s peace and security commissioner.

Ivan Simonovic, U.N. assistant secretary-general for human rights, said a failure to deploy troops would be a concern, but the AU should at least send more African human rights observers or send police.