27 July 2013, 21:02

Burundi to send 500 peacekeepers to Central Africa

миротворцы Миссии Африканского союза АМИСОН солдат армия сомали

Burundi has 500 peacekeepers ready to be deployed to the Central African Republic, which has remained unstable since a March coup, President Pierre Nkurunziza said Saturday.

"Currently Burundian contingents are on standby, ready to go and help stabilise ... brotherly and friendly countries such as Mali and Central African Republic," Nkurunziza said on national radio.

Burundi, already the second contributor to the African Union force in Somalia with 5,500 soldiers, had previously expressed its readiness to send peacekeepers to Mali but this was the first time it mentioned the Central African Republic.

"Burundi was asked to send around 500 soldiers to Central African Republic. They are already ready but no date has so far been fixed for their deployment," an official in the president's office said Saturday.

A rebel coalition known as Seleka seized power in Bangui on March 24, forcing President Francois Bozize to flee.

Regional leaders have set up a peace plan that was accepted by Seleka but Michel Djotodia, the former rebel boss and now the country's new strongman, has failed to abide by its terms, observers say.

Nkurunziza's comments came as Congo Republic President Denis Sassou Nguesso was in Burundi on a three-day official visit.

Burundi, Congo and the Central African Republic are all members of the Economic Community of Central African States.

The other members are Angola, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe and Chad.

A battalion of 425 Burundian soldiers destined for Mali "has been inspected by the United Nations and is on standby to deploy", according to the Burundian army.

A force of 400 troops from countries in the central African region currently deployed in CAR, the Mission for the Consolidation of Peace in the Central African Republic (MICOPAX), will be turned into a larger African force starting August 1, according to the African Union.

The AU's Peace and Security Council has authorised the force to have 3,500 armed personnel.

Earlier this month the AU said 2,000 had been committed or were already serving and a further 1,500 were still sought.

Voice of Russia, AFP

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