Burundian Lawmakers Reject African Union’s Peacekeeping Plan

Burundi’s parliament said it rejected an African Union plan to send 5,000 peacekeepers to the country to quell eight months of violence that’s claimed the lives of more than 400 people.

The AU on Dec. 18 asked member states to begin contributing troops and resources and the United Nations Security Council to lend its support. It gave the government in Bujumbura four days to accept the deployment and warned that Burundian officials who don’t cooperate may face sanctions.

Any deployment of foreign troops would “jeopardize the country’s sovereignty,” the assembly said Monday in a statement handed to reporters in the capital. Burundi’s security forces are “recognized worldwide for their professionalism” and capable of handling the situation, it said.

Violence in the East African nation erupted in April after President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would seek a third term in elections, which he later won. Opponents say he violated a two-term limit in peace agreements that ended a civil war in 2005. The landlocked country holds 6 percent of the world’s nickel reserves.

The parliament’s statement came as Burundi’s main opposition coalition, known as Cnared, said it hasn’t been invited to participate in talks next week in Uganda that seek to solve the country’s political crisis.

Uganda Talks

No one from the Cnared group disputing the legality of Nkurunziza’s third term has been asked to join talks beginning Dec. 28 in Uganda, Pancrace Cimpaye, spokesman for the coalition, said by phone. Fourteen other groups will be participating, he said.

Ugandan Defense Minister Crispus Kiyonga said on Saturday that Burundi’s government, the opposition and East African officials would meet to discuss a national unity administration and the return of refugees. The negotiations first began on July 19.

The U.S. urged all parties to cooperate with the mediator, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, and warned that should the talks not restart, alternative options might be considered by the African Union and UN. Earlier this month, Cnared asked that talks be broadened to include international bodies such as the UN and the African Union.