African leaders to vote on deployment of force to troubled Burundi

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African leaders will vote on whether to deploy a 5,000-strong peacekeeping force to troubled Burundi despite the country’s vehement opposition.

Leaders from the 54-member African Union will be expected in Addis Ababa this week for their annual summit.

Even though the official theme for the summit is human rights, the leaders will once again be beset by a string of crises across the continent when they meet at the AU headquarters in the Ethiopian capital on Saturday and Sunday.

Election of a new Au chairperson to replace outgoing Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is also an agenda for the summit.

Discussions on the sidelines are expected to include stalled talks to end war and forge a unity government in South Sudan.

“This summit could and should be historic: it will be the first time that heads of state will vote on the deployment of an AU-led peacekeeping force to a country that has not agreed to its deployment,” said Stephanie Wolters of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) think tank.

A two-thirds majority will be required to send the force, the African Prevention and Protection Mission in Burundi, MAPROBU, although it remains unclear who would be willing to contribute troops to a mission the East African country has branded an “invasion force”.

The AU charter’s Article 4h however gives the pan-African bloc the right to intervene in a fellow nation state “in respect of grave circumstances, namely: war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.”

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