The United States urged African leaders to “work behind the scenes” before their annual summit next weekend to convince Burundi to accept a deployment of international troops in the tiny African state amid festering political violence.
United State Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said members of the African Union Peace and Security Council expected leaders to endorse its proposed deployment of 5 000 troops to protect civilians, despite a rejection of the force by Burundi.
“I didn’t get a sense from the African countries gathered in the room that they’re going to take that as a final answer, Power told reporters after a meeting between the UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council in Addis Ababa. “
Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza says the plan to send peacekeepers would constitute “an invading force”.
Nkurunziza’s re-election for a third term in 2015 sparked the crisis, which has raised fears of an ethnic conflict in a region where memories of neighbouring Rwanda’s 1994 genocide remain fresh.
The UN Security Council travelled to Burundi on Thursday for one night, its second visit to the country in less than 10 months.
The United Nations estimates the death toll at 439 people but says it could be higher.
More than 240 000 people have fled abroad and the country’s economy is in crisis.
The African Union plans to seek UN Security Council backing for any deployment of troops.