African Union faces challenges of peacekeeping in torn continent

By He Wenping
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Global Times, March 17, 2016
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The 26th African Union (AU) Summit was held in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, in late January. The theme of this summit was about human rights in this continent. How to solve the Burundi crisis and how to cope with terrorism are the two new challenges topping the summit agenda.

The Burundi crisis began in April 2015. Because of people's protests after the ruling party elected President Pierre Nkurunziza for a controversial third term in office, demonstrations and armed conflict broke out in Burundi.

So far, the conflict has led to over 400 people killed and more than 200,000 fleeing to neighboring countries. On December 18, the Peace and Security Council (PSC) decided to send a troop of 5,000 soldiers to prevent the explosion of massacres and genocide, as happened in Burundi and Rwanda in the 1990s, but this was rejected by the Burundi side.

In this AU Summit, participants had an intense debate on whether African peacekeeping troops should be sent to Burundi to resolve its political crisis. The PSC and most African countries, including Nigeria, were for troop deployment and against the incumbent presidents of some African countries seeking to extend their terms by means of constitutional amendment and forced election.

But there were some countries, such as South Africa, Tanzania and Gambia, that opposed sending peacekeeping troops to Burundi. The Burundi government threatened to treat peacekeeping troops sent without their invitation as "intruders" and said Burundi would battle foreign armies that attempt to deploy in the East African country.

The AU Summit had to make a compromise to send high-level delegates rather than 5,000 peacekeepers to Burundi. Yet Chadian Idriss Deby, who just took over as chair of the AU, as successor to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, warned of possible armed attacks if the crisis worsens.

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