AU Deputy Chairman Erastus Mwencha

The Africa Union has appointed five heads of state and tasked them with trying to convince Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza on the importance of the deployment of peacekeepers to his troubled country.

Without giving names, AU Deputy Chairman Erastus Mwencha said that African leaders want to set up a high-level delegation of African leaders to travel to Burundi and meet with officials about sending the AU peacekeeping troops, adding however, that the continental body is not trying to force itself into Burundi. He also said the AU was convinced authorities in Burundi would push for peace.

“We still believe that the government has competence and capacity to change the situation on the ground, and we hope that the signals that they are getting from the international community about the concerns are impetus enough for Burundi to really make sure that peace and security returns, there is reconciliation, and the country returns to normalcy,” Mwencha said, while reacting to opposition claims that the AU has ‘abandoned’ the people of Burundi.

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Despite repeated calls from the US, urging the AU to act within its powers and send 5,000 peacekeepers to Burundi, at last week’s AU Summit the leaders failed to nail it home, leading to criticism from various stakeholders including the opposition in the central African country.

Indeed, exiled leader of the opposition Front for Democracy in Burundi (FRODEBU) accused the African Union and the international community of turning their backs on the people of Burundi while people were being killed by the government of President Pierre Nkurunziza.

But Mr Mwencha said the African leaders discussed Burundi in detail and decided to first give the dialogue process a chance before sending the peacekeepers.

“Burundi was indeed actually discussed. Burundi made a case and the Peace and Security Council made its case. Of course government officials of Burundi indicated that they are making progress in all-inclusive talks and that peace and security is improving, and the member states decided to give them the benefit of the doubt,” he said.

Mwencha said he urged Minani to carefully read the communique of the AU summit.

Meanwhile, four people were killed on Saturday night, including a child selling boiled eggs at a bar, when three grenades exploded in the capital Bujumbura, residents said.

At least five people, including security personnel, were killed in separate attacks on Friday. FRODEBU claimed on Saturday its fighters were involved in the Friday killings.

Nine months of violence sparked by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term has left more than 400 people dead in a country that emerged from an ethnically charged civil war in 2005.

Unrest in the country began when President Nkurunziza said he wanted a third term in office which is contrary to the two term limit in the country’s constitution.