Bu­rundi to top agenda at AU sum­mit

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Bu­rundi is set to top se­cu­rity talks at the African Union (AU) sum­mit in Ad­dis Ababa over the next few days af­ter its pres­i­dent, Pierre Nku­run­z­iza, again said he did not want the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s pro­posed peace­keep­ing force im­posed on his coun­try. His re­jec­tion on Fri­day came only a day af­ter South African In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions Min­is­ter Maite Nkoana-Masha­bane re­vealed that Bu­run­dian spe­cial en­voy Pas­cal Nyabenda told Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma that Nku­run­z­iza might ac­cept the 5 000 peace­keep­ers.

Briefing jour­nal­ists this week on Zuma’s meet­ing with Nyabenda, Nkoana-Masha­bane said Nyabenda in­di­cated that, “if there is a need for a pro­tec­tive force to take care of cit­i­zens while ne­go­ti­a­tions are tak­ing place, they will con­sider that”.

She said, how­ever, that South Africa sup­ported the AU’s stance that Bu­rundi should give con­sent for the de­ploy­ment of the force, say­ing: “There will never be an in­vad­ing force com­ing from the African govern­ment.”

The is­sue would be fi­nalised at the AU sum­mit, she said.

South Africa is likely to be­come part of the pro­tracted me­di­a­tion ef­fort led by the East African Com­mu­nity and headed by Ugan­dan Pres­i­dent Yow­eri Mu­sev­eni.

The South African govern­ment, rep­re­sented by then deputy pres­i­dent Zuma, played an im­por­tant role in get­ting Bu­run­dian lead­ers to sign a peace agree­ment at the end of its seven-year civil war in 2000.

Nku­run­z­iza told a del­e­ga­tion from the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil vis­it­ing Bu­rundi this week that the AU “must re­spect Bu­rundi as a mem­ber state and we must be con­sulted” on the de­ploy­ment of peace troops, Voice of Amer­ica re­ported on­line.

The UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil has pushed for in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights ob­servers and peace­keep­ers to be al­lowed into Bu­rundi, amid re­ports of es­ca­lat­ing vi­o­lence fol­low­ing elec­tions six months ago.

US am­bas­sador to the UN Sa­man­tha Power told re­porters af­ter the meet­ing that the del­e­ga­tion “did not achieve as much, frankly, as I think we would have liked”.

In an ef­fort to per­suade Bu­rundi to ac­cept the AU peace­keep­ers, the AU Peace and Se­cu­rity Coun­cil this week pro­posed, in a con­cept of op­er­a­tions, that the AU’s pro­tec­tion mis­sion in Bu­rundi – apart from pro­tect­ing civil­ians, political fig­ures and those in­volved in the peace talks – would also have a duty to guard against “po­ten­tial in­fil­tra­tion by for­eign mili­tia”.

Bu­rundi re­cently ac­cused Rwanda of sup­port­ing for­eign rebel groups, al­legedly hid­ing in refugee camps in Rwanda, but Rwanda de­nies this.

Ac­cord­ing to the Red Cross, more than 232 000 peo­ple have fled Bu­rundi since vi­o­lence erupted af­ter Nku­run­z­iza’s an­nounce­ment in April that he in­tended to stand for a third term. Of those, most are in Tan­za­nia, but 77 000 have fled to Rwanda.

Stephanie Wolters, head of the con­flict preven­tion and risk anal­y­sis divi­sion at the In­sti­tute for Se­cu­rity Stud­ies, this week wrote in the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s ISS To­day that South Africa had a duty to be­come in­volved in Rwanda be­cause it was a “key cham­pion of the African Char­ter on Democ­racy and Hu­man Rights”, which saw the AU move from a po­si­tion of non-in­ter­fer­ence to one of non-in­dif­fer­ence.

She also said “the pro­posed de­ploy­ment is an ex­am­ple of Africa tak­ing charge of its own is­sues and find­ing African so­lu­tions to African prob­lems – a leit­mo­tif of the South African govern­ment, and [AU Com­mis­sion chair Nkosazana] Dlamini-Zuma”.

Other is­sues that will come up at the AU sum­mit, which for the first time will be about the is­sue of hu­man – and, in par­tic­u­lar, women’s – rights, in­clude ter­ror­ist at­tacks on the con­ti­nent, the fund­ing of the AU, and elec­tions and con­sti­tu­tion­al­ism.

Heads of state will also gather on the side­lines in a bid to re­vive the flag­ging African Peer Re­view Mech­a­nism, the brain­child of for­mer pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki and for­mer Nige­rian pres­i­dent Oluse­gun Obasanjo.

A sum­mit called last year by Kenya’s Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta was can­celled at the last minute so that it could be held on the side­lines of the AU sum­mit.

He said at the time that this was so that non­mem­ber states could also at­tend and per­haps be per­suaded to join.

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