African Union to send military experts to Burundi

Johannesburg - African leaders meeting at a summit in Johannesburg on Monday agreed to send military experts to Burundi, which has been rocked by weeks of violence over the president's controversial bid for a third term.

Since surviving a coup attempt last month President Pierre Nkurunziza has faced down international pressure to reconsider his attempt to stay in power, which diplomats fear could plunge the country into war.

"We are hoping to deploy at least 50 [military experts]," the African Union's peace and security commissioner Smail Chergui told reporters.

"The mission of these people will be to observe what is happening and also to give counsel to the police if need be."

The unrest has left about 40 people dead and scores injured, mostly in the capital Bujumbura. More than 100 000 people have fled the violence to neighbouring countries.

Parliamentary elections are planned for June 29, ahead of the presidential poll in July.

Both polls were postponed following weeks of demonstrations that were brutally suppressed by police and a failed coup attempt by a section of the army.

The Burundi election commission on Friday approved all eight candidates who put themselves forward for the upcoming presidential poll, including Nkurunziza and his leading opponent Agathon Rwasa.

Despite being cleared to contest the election, Rwasa is keeping open the possibility of an opposition boycott.

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