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African Union Back-Peddles on Burundi Crisis

AU Retracts on Burundi Crisis 

Observing the developments of the African Union (AU) latest stand on Burundi one sees a clear steer back. The AU has clearly backtracked on its intention to have a  military intervention in Burundi. There could be many reasons for such a move by the union. One of them is that AU has been crusading for state sovereignty and it does not want to appear to violate the very value the union holds so dear. There could be a myriad of other reasons. For some reason this did not come as a surprise to me at all. Partly because I expected the AU to do anything in its bid to save this thing called sovereignty that member states, or at least those in power keeps talking about. But most importantly, the resolution to deploy the military in Burundi was wrong. It was wrong because it is not a viable solution to the crisis in Burundi. I have elsewhere in this space presented reasons why a military solution by the AU is not a sustainable solution to the problem in Burundi. I am still persuaded that the solution to Burundi lies elsewhere. Whether the AU wants to take the sustainable but longer route to save Burundi remains to be seen.

By the way is there a Crisis in Burundi?

But even as we continue having a conversation on the Burundi crisis, there seems to have arisen a parallel matter; the one on whether there is actually any crisis in Burundi at all; or one that the crisis in Burundi has been blown out of proportion. Recently a friend told me that she was in Bujumbura and she realised that everything appears to be "normal" and that people are going about their business as "usual." Again today a friend shared with me that she seems to be baffled by what could be actually happening in Burundi since someone told her that in Burundi life is going on "normally." This begs a question. Is the crisis in Burundi just a media creation? Is it a crisis that never was or have we blown it out of proportion? 

My answer is straightforward. We have a big crisis in Burundi. Much bigger even than it has caught the eye of the media. I have keenly followed the conflict formation in Burundi and I can confidently comment about it. Speaking in Kampala in September 2014, I told a gathering sitting in Speke Resort, Munyonyo that Burundi was headed to a genocide if nothing was not done to avert it. I still hold the same view today with no fear of contradiction. The genocide mentality is the cause of genocide. A trigger is all that is needed to actualize it since the mentality actually exits Burundi. The move by President Nkurunziza to go for an illegitimate third term was one of such triggers. But Burundi seems to have narrowly survived that. It survived not so much because of any known significant intervention but because the government crushed the dissenting voices and systematically used state power to intimidate and scare off those in opposition. I do not mean the opposition stand on the right for they are equally trouble makers. What should worry anyone is the fact that the genocide mentality still lives on in Burundi. Triggers are like waves, the passage of one does not mean avoidance of another. There surely will come another trigger. 

Those who have begun to question or even simply wonder is there is such a serious crisis in Burundi have actually done one thing. They have succumbed to the government of Burundi's propaganda. In a straight line progression the Nkurunziza-led government has denied any major crisis in Burundi. They have invested resources to portray just that at home and project it abroad. It needs a sharper eye to unearth was is happening in Burundi. Apart from few instances of waves of outright violence, Burundi has largely experienced state-led quiet and systematic killings. This is even more dangerous for the simple reason that state-led genocide is the worst genocide that there can ever be. Before the world knows it, a lot of damage will have been caused. At least I have not forgotten Nazi Germany; is just to fetch an example from far. Never mind the next door ones. 

The AU's Last Card?

What particularly worries me is that the AU seemed to have already shown its last card. Military intervention. Upon war blackmail from Burundi and in the face of the endless clamour for sovereignty the AU has sadly shown the weakness of its last card. It has shown how weak that card can be. The problem is that the AU waited until too late to begin thinking of doing anything to save the situation in Burundi. The community waited until it was too late; they wasted a lot of precious time. The AU failed to intervene at the right time. Now the Community is shadow-boxing with no known strategy on how to handle a situation that is fast getting out of hand.

The best thing that can be done to conflicts such as the one we are witnessing in Burundi is to do everything that can be done right to prevent them. When they are allowed to happen, they get really nasty. Conflicts are not events such that they can just shock the world. They are processes and they happen as we watch. After Rwanda, I personally did not expect Burundi to come the far it has at the watch of AU and in the era of the so called "African solutions to African problems." By 2014 all through to mid 2015 AU had a tool kit full of arsenals to prevent Burundi from sinking. Now that we left it to sink this deep, we have ourselves to blame for the mess that is Burundi currently.

Peace Talks Must Work 

The more reason peace talks must be meant to work. We need very high profile track one diplomacy; we need better mediators (not Museveni), we need full time commitment to bring the warring factions to a negotiation table. It is not going to be easy but it can work; it must be made to work. We need to structure and sustain dialogue for Burundi. The solution to the Burundi crisis must be born again out of Arusha. The talks remain the only option. Although we missed out on the right time to intervene, somehow we have a narrow window to salvage the situation. We must now utilize that window and utilize it effectively for the sake of the people of Burundi and the stability of the region. 

African Union Back-Peddles on Burundi Crisis African Union Back-Peddles on Burundi Crisis Reviewed by Ibrahim Magara on February 01, 2016 Rating: 5

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