Sikhumbuzo Moyo Senior Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE might not participate in the African Nations Championship tournament in Rwanda if the situation in neighbouring Burundi becomes a security threat to the successful staging of the event.
The 2016 Chan finals will run from January 16 to February 7.
Zifa president Phillip Chiyangwa said while news that the African Union has taken steps to send 5,000 peacekeeping troops to Burundi was most welcome and assuring, his executive committee was keeping tabs on developments in a bid to make sure the Zimbabwean players and supporters are not put in any danger.
Rwanda shares a border with Burundi.
“As we get towards the event we will also be increasing our surveillance in terms of the safety assurances of our boys. I will not take any risk with the lives of my players and indeed any Zimbabwean supporting our boys in Rwanda. If the crisis there escalates we will inform the relevant bodies,Cosafa, Caf that as Zimbabwe we can’t go there,” said the flamboyant businessman.
Chiyangwa though said he was confident peace will prevail with the tournament going through smoothly.
“Football is supposed to be a uniting process not a conflict sport but in the same vein as Zifa we will not take chances with our boys and supporters,” said Chiyangwa.
According to online reports, the African Union said on Friday it was preparing to send 5,000 peacekeepers to Burundi to protect civilians caught up in a growing crisis, for the first time using powers to deploy troops to a member country against its will.
Burundi dismissed the announcement, saying no foreign force would get in without permission. But its neighbours have grown increasingly alarmed by the violence in the central African state which the United Nations says is on the brink of civil war.
Tensions have been running particularly high since gunmen attacked military sites in the capital Bujumbura last week, unnerving a region where memories of the 1994 genocide in neighbouring Rwanda are still fresh.
The African Union’s Peace and Security Council said in a statement it had drawn up plans for the force, to be called MAPROBU, and had asked the UN Security Council to give it the final clearance it needed to get boots on the ground.
The UN Security Council has already been looking at ways to tackle the crisis, including sending peacekeepers.
“(The AU body) decides that MAPROBU shall have an initial strength of up to 5,000 military personnel and police,” including also human rights observers and military experts, it added.
Zimbabwe kick off their campaign in Group D against Zambia at Umuganda Stadium in Gisenyi on January 19.