, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 21 – Burundi’s parliament was debating Monday a proposed African Union peacekeeping mission that Bujumbura has rejected as an “invasion force”.
Lawmakers are expected to oppose the planned force, which was proposed by the African Union last week as international alarm grows over spiralling violence in the tiny central African nation.
“The purpose of this extraordinary meeting is to give voice to the people through its representatives,” the ruling CNDD-FDD party said of the debate in parliament’s two houses which will be broadcast live on radio and public television.
The new force, dubbed MAPROBU — the French acronym for the African Prevention and Protection Mission in Burundi — will have an initial renewable mandate of six months.
The 54-member African Union said Friday it would send a 5,000-strong force to halt violence that has sparked fears Burundi is rapidly sliding towards civil war.
It gave the government a four-day deadline to agree to the offer, but warned it would send troops anyway.
“Burundi is clear on the matter: it is not ready to accept an AU force on its territory,” Burundi’s deputy presidential spokesman Jean-Claude Karerwa said Sunday.
“If AU troops came without the government’s approval, it would be an invasion and occupation force, and the Burundi government would reserve the right to act accordingly.”
The parliament in Burundi overwhelmingly backs the government after almost all of the opposition boycotted elections.
“On ‘MAPROBU’, the people of Burundi shall have a final say,” Foreign Minister Alain-Aime Nyamitwe said, adding that the government had “full confidence” in the security forces to do their job.
Burundi descended into bloodshed in April when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his intention to run for a controversial third term, which he went on to win in July.
Nkurunziza is an ex-rebel and born-again Christian who believes he has divine backing to rule.