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Support the People of Burundi to Ensure Stability of their Country

The attempted coup of May 2015 that nearly unseated President Nkurunziza intensified protests that had begun earlier and since then the situation in the country has steadily deteriorated with no known political settlement to the crisis that has since caused more than a thousand deaths and displaced hundreds of thousands. The international community has only been seen as sending mixed signals with dwindling international presence in Burundi. The AU has since failed to take any significant measures to avert a possible genocide. The EAC has been toying with possibilities with a mediation process that is excruciatingly slow and one that does not seem to be headed to any possible sustainable way forward.

The Burundi situation has largely been left to the people of Burundi themselves. Interestingly, it appears that many Burundians are growing in awareness of the fact that none other than themselves can actually save their country. Burundians are redoubling their efforts to stop a return to war.  For instance, there is a network of volunteer citizen reporters reporting from around the country on outbreaks of violence in their area for possible action. This is a very good initiative since the mainstream media has since been crippled and international presence is dwindling. Social media and such a group of locals within organized networks of citizens provide priceless source of information that only them can access. This way the local networks of the citizens are filling the information void that has since been deliberately created in Burundi.

The citizen reporters have received training on how to assess and report information, which they send in from around the country using a specialist mobile text messaging system. Each of the messages is logged, assessed for its relevance to the developing situation, and then verified by the staff in Bujumbura. They cross-check incident reports with other citizen reporters, any publicly available information, and the network’s own contacts in the police, military and elsewhere. The reporting is risky, so everyone is very careful with the information produced. Their operation is building a picture of violent hotspots – an ‘Early Warning’ network in every province around the country. With international reporting capacity generally limited to the capital, it provides an almost unique source of countrywide intelligence.

This is proof of the effectiveness of local networks in penetrating deeper and complex issues that plague the society. Outsiders are not going to help Burundi; neither can they help any other country in Africa or elsewhere. This cannot be stressed further given the level at which international presence has vanished in Burundi following the crisis. The best they can do is speculate, spectate, issue travel advisories and warnings and watch as the situation deteriorates. I think the best or the least, whichever way one may look at it, that outsiders can do is support such community and citizen led initiatives especially in boosting their efficiency through provision of technical and material support. 
Support the People of Burundi to Ensure Stability of their Country Support the People of Burundi to Ensure Stability of their Country Reviewed by Ibrahim Magara on June 13, 2016 Rating: 5

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