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East Africa pushes Burundi peacekeeping force


map_of_burundiBurundi faces mounting regional pressure to accept an African Union peacekeeping force, diplomats said Wednesday, with the issue a key point of talks due in Uganda next week.

The 54-member African Union said last week it would send a 5,000-strong force to halt violence that has sparked fears Burundi is sliding back towards civil war, and has pledged to send troops despite Burundi’s opposition to what it terms an “invasion force”.

Pushing for Burundi’s acceptance of the AU force will be a key part of the latest round of talks aimed at ending months of violence, regional diplomats said.

Burundi’s unrest began in April when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his intention to run for a controversial third term, which he went on to win in July.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni will host the next round of talks between rival Burundian factions on December 28, Uganda’s Defence Minister Crispus Kiyonga told AFP.

“There are 14 groups including the ruling party, opposition parties and civil society who will be attending,” Kiyonga said, without confirming if Nkurunziza will attend.

Talks are to be held at Uganda’s presidential palace in Entebbe, just outside the capital Kampala.

In Tanzania, which borders Burundi and hosts the world’s third largest refugee camp of Nyarugusu with some 110,000 Burundians, President John Magufuli called for “dialogue”.

Tanzania’s presidency said in a statement the issue of the AU force will be a key part of the Uganda talks.

Burundi, which itself contributes several thousand troops to peacekeeping forces — including the AU mission in Somalia and the UN one in Central African Republic — has said there is no need for peacekeepers in Burundi.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta this week sent an envoy to meet Nkurunziza, delivering a message condemning “the use of violence to pursue political objectives” and supporting the Ugandan-led talks.

“The leaders of Burundi must place the interest of their nation… at the fore of their activities,” Kenyatta said. “The guns must be silenced.”

Rwandan President Paul Kagame warned the violence in the neighbouring nation had the “potential to spill over” to Rwanda, but said he would not send troops to Bujumbura, while also rejecting claims of arming Burundi refugees as rebels.

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