People gather during a demonstration against the Republican Forces of Burundi on the beach of the lake Tanganyika near the port of Bujumbura. (Onesphore Nibigira/AFP/Getty Images)

Thousands of supporters of Burundi’s president protested Saturday against the African Union’s plan to deploy 5,000 peacekeepers to quell the country’s escalating unrest.

Burundi has been rocked by turmoil since April when it was announced that President Pierre Nkurunziza would run for a third term. Nkurunziza was reelected in July, but the violence has since escalated.

The demonstration in Bujumbura, the capital, was led by Vice President Gaston Sindimwo, who insisted that Burundi’s army is capable of halting violence and protecting all Burundians. Other protests were in Ngozi province, Nkurunziza’s home town and a stronghold of the ruling party.

Burundi will never accept the African Union’s forces, Sindimwo said.

“Burundi is a member of the African Union and has not accepted those forces. How can they say the AU has decided, yet Burundi has not accepted?” he asked.

“We would like to warn A.U. troops that the majority of Burundians don’t want them and they should not impose themselves on the people of Burundi,” Alice Nakuto, a member of the ruling party’s militia known as Imbonerakure and who took part in demonstrations in Ngozi province, told the Associated Press by phone. Burundi said Thursday that it would swiftly crush rebels after they announced that they had joined forces to oust Nkurunziza following months of bloodshed.

At least 400 people have died in Burundi’s violence since April and some 220,000 have fled to neighboring countries, according to the United Nations.