Burundi says an intervention by the African Union will be an act of “invasion”

A protester holds his hands up in front of soldiers in Burundi.
A protester holds his hands up in front of soldiers in Burundi.
Image: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic
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Burundi has rejected the decision by the African Union (AU) to send in troops to the east African country saying the presence of such a force in the country will be perceived as an “invasion and occupation force.”

“We will not allow foreign troops in Burundi. We don’t need them,” Gervais Abayeho, a presidential spokesman told Al Jazeera. ”We have a legal and democratically elected government that should be consulted before making such decisions.”

On Friday, the AU’s peace and security council took the unusual step of authorizing a peace keeping force to the country without being invited. The 5,000-strong personnel are tasked with “the protection of civilian populations under imminent threat” and the “creation of the necessary conditions” for a peaceful resolution. The force has been given a mandate of six months to fulfill this objective.

The AU gave Burundi until Tuesday (Dec. 22) to comply with the decision. But the refusal by the government to welcome the peace-keeping force puts it at loggerheads with the continent’s largest political body.

Erastus Mwencha, deputy chairman of the African Union Commission, called the reaction “sad” and suggested that the AU has been forced to intervene only after the government demonstrated an inability to protect its own people.

Burundi has been embroiled in a violent political crisis since April after president Pierre Nkurunziza sought a constitutional change to run for a third-term. Hundreds of people have died in the past few months and at least 200,000 have been forced to feel the country into neighboring countries after clashes between the government and anti-Nkurunziza forces. Things deteriorated last week after reports security forces allegedly executed people in the streets of the capital Bujumbura.

“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,” said Mwencha.