by Ronald Ssekandi

James Duddridge, minister for Africa at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, told reporters on Tuesday that the military option would take the shape of peace enforcers similar to those under the auspices of the African Union Mission in Somalia.

BurundiSome African countries have contributed troops to the peacekeeping force in Somalia that is battling insurgents.

“We hope for the best but the international community needs to stand ready if things go wrong,” Duddridge said while in Uganda.

“Initially African Union deployment would be more appropriate but certainly the United Kingdom will do all it can to support,” he added when asked if Britain would support sending peacekeeping troops to Burundi.

Duddridge said on the trip that will also see him go to Rwanda and Burundi that he would meet military chiefs in the region to discuss a possibility of not allowing such situations to occur.

A recent spate of violence in the Burundian capital Bujumbura has left scores of people dead and several fleeing the East African country.

Attacks on military installations last week by unknown gunmen are said to have provoked retaliatory attacks from the military leaving close to 100 people dead.

Duddridge said although the Burundi crisis is deteriorating, Britain is still looking at the first option, which is supporting the ongoing peace efforts led by Uganda.

Uganda was appointed by regional leaders to facilitate the talks between the rival parties in a bid to stop the violence that broke out in April following President Pierre Nkurunziza’s successful bid to run for a third term in office contrary to the country’s Constitution.

Uganda early this week said within several days the peace negotiations would start, hosted in Kampala, Uganda’s capital.

“We hope this week or next week, once the logistics are in place and the parties convene in Kampala, then the talks can start,” Okello Oryem, Uganda’s minister of state for foreign affairs told reporters on Monday.

Oryem said although the peace talks option is still being pursued, the military option is still on the table.
He argued that Uganda cannot allow a repeat of the 1994 Rwanda genocide to happen anywhere in the region.

In the case of Burundi, Oryem said Uganda would send its troops in case the situation deteriorates further. He said a similar mechanism of how it deployed its troops in neighboring South Sudan in 2013 would be used.

Maj. Gen. Wilson Mbadi, Uganda’s military Joint Chief of Staff recently said the Ugandan military has the capacity of restore order in situations like in Burundi as long as it is called upon by the leaders.

Humanitarian aid agencies are warning that crisis is worsening the refugee situation in the region.

In Uganda, the UN’s Refugee Agency says the number of Burundian refugees crossing into the country is expected to rise to 10,000 people although Uganda does not share a common border with Burundi.

“Should the security situation worsen, the figure may go higher,” said Charles Yaxley, Associate External Relations Officer UNHCR Uganda.

He said the refugee agency has started to prepare for the anticipated influx of the Burundian refugees crossing into the country.

Uganda is already hosting the highest number of refugees in its history. UNHCR figures show that the total number of refugees and asylum seekers in the country are 509,447.

This makes Uganda the third largest refugee hosting country in the region after Ethiopia and Kenya, and the eighth largest in the world. Enditem

Source: Xinhua

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