The African Union Peace and Security Council has temporarily stayed the deployment of peacekeepers to Burundi and instead voted to increase the number of specialised observers.
The Council has authorised the deployment of 100 military experts, police and human rights observers to Burundi by December 15, after the AU Commission signs a memorandum of understanding that will govern the activities and movement of experts.
AU assessors on the ground had recommended that a combination of international pressure on the government to embrace inter-Burundi dialogue led by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, increased military monitoring and targeted sanctions would suffice for the time being.
Last week, the AU had indicated that it was ready to quickly deploy the Eastern African Standby Force should the situation deteriorate. However, the Council voted to impose targeted sanctions — including travel bans and asset freezes —against listed individuals who are impeding the negotiation process, committing acts of violence and violations of human rights, as well as making inflammatory statements that could push the country into all-out civil war.
The Council has now decided that the inter-Burundi dialogue be convened outside Burundi, at a location to be determined by the mediation team in order to enable all Burundian stakeholders to participate.
The chairperson of the AU Commission, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, has been tasked to inform member states and international partners of individuals and entities to be sanctioned.
Presidential spokesperson Gervais Abayeho said that the government is open for dialogue as the only way to end the political crisis.
“We owe what we have achieved so far to dialogue; therefore you can easily understand that the push for resumption of the Inter-Burundi Dialogue has been welcomed with open arms,” said Mr Abayeho.
He added that the government of Burundi will do whatever it takes to curb the violence. Still, intermittent heavy gunfire has continued to rock the capital, with Burundi police spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye noting that at least four people including a policeman have been killed since last Sunday in targeted attacks.
This comes after a few days of calm in the capital since the forced disarmament operation in the capital started. The Burundi security forces claim to have confiscated more than 50 weapons from illegally armed civilians.
The new Inter-Burundi Dialogue Commission was appointed by the Burundian president to revive the dialogue in Bujumbura under the facilitation of Uganda, currently represented by its Defence Minister Crispus Kiyonga.
“Uganda and East African Community will work closely with the newly formed Inter-Burundi Dialogue Commission in order to find a lasting solution for the current situation in the country,” said Mr Kiyonga
However the Burundi opposition who are currently in exile called on the dialogue to be conducted outside the country out of fear of their own security. AU and the UN Peace and Security Council had also called for the dialogue to be conducted in Kampala or Ethiopia under President Museveni’s facilitation.
Meanwhile, the UN Electoral Observer sojourn in Burundi (MENUB) has ended its 10-month mission in the country.
The mission was deployed on the request of the government after the mandate of the UN office in Burundi (BNUB) mandate ended in December last year.
“They worked professionally before, during and after elections in the country and the report of the electoral process was disseminated to all stakeholders,” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in a statement read by the director of the UN Electoral Assistance Division Tadjoudine Ali-Diabate.
In July, MENUB, the only international observer mission in the country said that the elections took place in a crisis and climate of wide spread fear and intimidation in parts of the country, stressing that the fundamental freedom of participation, assembly, expression and information suffered increased restriction during the campaign period as election day drew closer.
“The environment was not conducive for free, credible and inclusive elections’, MENUB’s concern include those related to private media reinstatement, protection of human rights, and fundamental freedoms including ensuring the right of the political opposition to campaign freely,” the statement said.