ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AA) – The African Union (AU) on Thursday threatened Burundi’s rival factions with sanctions if they derail peace talks planned for next month.
“All those whose action could jeopardize the inter-Burundian dialogue, including attacks by armed groups against governmental facilities and other targets as well as refusal to respond to the invitation of the mediator, shall be subjected to sanctions,” African Union Commission Chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said in a statement issued late on Wednesday.
She did not set out the nature of the proposed sanctions.
The warning came shortly after Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza threatened to attack AU peacekeepers if they were deployed to the country.
Two weeks ago, the AU announced it would send 5,000 troops to protect civilians, possibly without the government’s consent.
At least 400 people have been killed and 220,000 displaced since violence erupted April following Nkurunziza’s announcement that he would seek a third term in office. Earlier this month, 87 were killed in one day of violence as troops responded to attacks in the capital Bujumbura.
There are fears the violence could spiral into civil war and ethnic conflict in an echo of fighting in the 1990s between Hutus and Tutsis that claimed an estimated 300,000 lives.
The government and opposition met unsuccessfully in Uganda earlier this week for talks aimed at ending the violence. The sides are scheduled to meet again on Jan. 6 in Tanzania.
Dlamini-Zuma said the AU was ready to discuss the deployment of peacekeepers with Nkurunziza’s government.
Nkurunziza and other government figures have criticized the AU proposal as a violation of Burundi’s sovereignty.
Moves to intervene in Burundi to prevent civil war have been given impetus by the UN, the EU and the East African Community.
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