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Both EAC and AU not Serious About Burundi

The Crisis in Burundi is Deeper

When it comes to the current political crisis in Burundi many questions abound. One is the whole issue about the understanding of the conflict. I have no idea whether those involved in trying to resolve the crisis do actually understand the Burundi crisis as a multi-layered conflict that it is. There is a clear tendency towards narrowly handling that conflict as a political crisis emanating from President Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term, a decision that was vigorously protested by the opposition leading to the current crisis. That is a rather simplistic way of looking at the Burundi crisis. From where I sit the conflict in Burundi boils down to deep seated ethnic rivalry and grievances traceable to as early as Burundi’s independence and even beyond. If actors can go that deep down then they will realize why the crisis in Burundi is not only a Burundi issue but a regional issue since such analysis will take them to Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and beyond. Nevertheless we have chosen to have a narrow view of the conflict but even with that narrow view, the third party actors involved in attempting a solution seem to be getting many things wrong.

The Regional Bodies’ Quest to Intervene

In order to reach some sort of political compromise in Burundi both the East African Community (EAC) and the African Union (AU) must play a critical role. It is impressive that the two organs have demonstrated knowledge of their irreplaceable role in helping bring Burundi back to her knees.  But then one is left wondering why the two regional bodies have allowed their position to be so compromised. I mean, there are some glaring plunders both by the EAC and the AU in regard to their attempt to intervene in Burundi. What I do not seem to understand yet is whether the said plunders have occurred as mistakes or by design. While I doubt that the former is the case, I am worried that if the latter is true then we need to rethink the kind of regional bodies that we have and their effectiveness on regional peace and security.

Plunders of the East African Community

The EAC appointed President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda as its Mediator in the Burundi crisis. This decision was agreed upon sometimes last year. It was a big plunder. First, the EAC member states knew that Museveni risked not being accepted by the conflicting parties in Burundi. Indeed some actors have since called on the change of the Mediator, arguing that Museveni cannot be trusted to be neutral and impartial in regard to the Burundi issues. It does not take rocket science to know Museveni’s historical involvement not only in Burundi but Rwanda and DRC conflicts. Those conflicts are interrelated and Museveni is to be found in the centre of the whole mess. Mediators must by necessity, at least be perceived, to be neutral and impartial and if  and when neutrality and impartiality of the mediator is questioned, then mediation either never takes off or never succeeds. Why the EAC still took this risk and settled on Museveni is as puzzling as it sounds. But the second and most important plunder is that the EAC knew for sure that Uganda was headed to an election. Even with full knowledge of that notorious fact, the member states still appointed Museveni the incumbent and presidential aspirant as the Mediator for Burundi. Museveni has been busy and rightly so campaigning for his re-election. Even if he was to be a neutral, impartial and acceptable Mediator, I wonder how the EAC believed that Museveni would have sufficient time to campaign for his re-election in Uganda and at once mediate in Burundi.

Plunders of the African Union  

The AU has also been pretending to want to resolve the Burundi crisis. For obvious reasons I doubt the AU’s seriousness. But anyway the regional body has consistently attempted to pose as though it was doing something about the Burundi crisis. We are yet to see any tangible results from the AU’s continuous attempt to want to desire to act. But even with such desires and attempts the AU has also made, at least, one known significant plunder. In December 2015 the AU admitted Burundi into its Peace and Security Council, a position Burundi will hold for two years. It means that Burundi will be sitting in meetings and actively take part in AU’s peace and security decisions and among such decisions are those affecting Burundi itself. I mean it is simple; Burundi has a whole advantageous space to significantly impair the AU’s desire to intervene back at home.

We are aware that Burundi recalled its former Representative to the AU and made him the Minster for Foreign Affairs. He understands how the AU works; he knows perfectly well the flaws of the AU and the exiting loopholes that Burundi can militate to its advantage. Burundi has therefore effectively positioned itself to micro-manage the AU’s decisions on Burundi both from home and from inside the AU itself. How on earth does the AU expect to make any significant decision to intervene in Burundi given such circumstances? I do not know. What I am still struggling with is whether these plunders are by mistake or by design.

Both EAC and AU not Serious About Burundi Both EAC and AU not Serious About Burundi Reviewed by Ibrahim Magara on February 14, 2016 Rating: 5

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