Zuma: African Union to send monitors to Burundi

South African leader says Burundi agreed to allow pan-African body to send human rights and military monitors.

Burundi''s President Nkurunziza embraces his South African counterpart Zuma
Burundi's leader Pierre Nkurunziza triggered the crisis when he announced a bid for a third term [Evrard Ngendakumana/Reuters]

The African Union (AU) will send 200 human rights and military monitors to Burundi, South Africa’s president said, after a trip to the country that is facing its worst crisis since a civil war ended a decade ago.

Jacob Zuma, delivering a statement on Saturday by the delegation of African leaders that he leads, did not say when the monitors would arrive in Burundi, where more than 400 people have been killed since April.

“The government of Burundi has committed to the following: the government will continue the steps it has begun to open up space for free political activity by the people of Burundi and ensure the freedom of the media. The AU will deploy 100 human rights observers and 100 military monitors to Burundi to monitor the situation,” Zuma said. 

READ MORE: Why is Burundi rejecting African Union peacekeepers?

“We are pleased with the participation and contributions of all the sectors. The high-level delegation of the heads of state and government expresses its concerns about the levels of violence, loss of life and the general state of political instability in the country. We are, however, pleased that all parties expressed strong commitment to resolving whatever political problems exist through inclusive and peaceful dialogue.” 

Details about the new mission were not immediately clear. Diplomats said other African monitors sent to Bujumbura last year had been stuck in their hotel unable to work because Burundi refused to sign a memorandum allowing them to operate.

The conflict

Burundi’s civil war, which ended in 2005, largely pitted two ethnic groups against each other. The violence has rattled a region with a history of ethnic conflict. 

Western powers have urged Africans to act. The United States and European nations have withheld some aid to Burundi and taken other steps to try to put pressure on the government to resolve the crisis, but they say it has had little impact.

The decision to send monitors suggests a compromise had been reached with Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza, who triggered the crisis in April when he announced a bid for a third term. He went on to win a disputed election in July, in the face of street protests and violent clashes.

The new initiative falls far short of the African Union’s plan announced in December to send a 5,000-strong peacekeeping force, which Nkurunziza’s government rejected.

Source: Reuters