Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza threatened on Wednesday to fight any African Union peacekeepers imposed on his country, in his most confrontational comments yet on a mounting political crisis.
The African Union said this month it was ready to send 5,000 peacekeepers to protect civilians caught up in months of violence, invoking for the first time powers to intervene in a member state against its will.
“Everyone has to respect Burundi borders,” Nkurunziza said in comments broadcast on state radio.
“In case they violate those principles, they will have attacked the country and every Burundian will stand up and fight against them … The country will have been attacked and it will respond,” he said, in his first public response to the AU plan.
Other government officials have already said any peacekeepers arriving without Burundi’s permission would violate its sovereignty.
More than 220,000 have fled since the crisis erupted in April, triggered by President Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term.
Opposition groups took to the streets saying he was violating constitutional term limits. But he pointed to a court order allowing his campaign and was re-elected in a disputed July vote.
A failed coup, continued clashes and gun attacks in the central African nation have unsettled a region where memories of the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda are still raw.