Burundi accepts AU military observers “in principle”

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Burundi president Pierre Nkurunziza

Burundi  has flatly rejected AU calls for further delays to the polls, with parliamentary elections planned for June 29, ahead of the presidential vote on July 15.

However, it has  agreed “in principle” to the deployment of African Union military observers and human rights experts to monitor key elections following weeks of political unrest.

“Military experts, human rights monitors, observers – we say that in principle there is no problem, there is no objection,” Foreign Minister Aime-Alain Nyamitwe told AFP.

But Nyamitwe said they would be allowed in only after setting out conditions following “consultations” with the AU.

You do not send military experts to a country without having held consultations,” Nyamitwe added, calling on the AU to clarify details about the observers, including their mandate, their number, and which countries they will come from.

Polls were postponed following weeks of demonstrations that were brutally suppressed by security forces, and after a failed coup attempt last month by a section of the army.

The decision to send at least 50 observers was taken by the continent’s leaders at an AU summit last weekend in South Africa “to verify the process of disarming the militia and other armed groups”, the 54-member bloc’s peace and security commissioner Smail Chergui said.

Meanwhile human rights reports say at least 70 people have been killed, 500 wounded and over 1,000 jailed in weeks of political violence in Burundi.

Burundi has been in a political quagmire  since April over President Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial bid to stand for a third consecutive five-year term.

Opposition groups have termed the move as unconstitutional and a violation of a 2006 peace deal that ended 13 years of civil war.

More than 100,000 people have fled the violence to neighboring countries.

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