Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

African Union Refuses to Invade Burundi



If Western press alone could overthrow a government, Burundi’s would be long gone. Anyone searching the Web for “Burundi” and “News” in the past year would have seen long lists of shrill press quoting shrill Western officials demanding that Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza step down, amidst street protest and armed insurgency, and make way for a “transitional government.” Nkurunziza’’s crime? Winning a third term in office, after Burundi’s constitutional court ruled that he was constitutionally entitled to run for election by universal suffrage a second time. Nkurunziza is hugely popular with Burundi’s rural agricultural majority.

U.S. UN Ambassador Samantha Power, UN Secretary General Ban-Ki-Moon, the US State Department, the EU and Belgium, Burundi’s former colonial master, have fiercely advocated for the deployment of 5000 African Union (AU) troops in Burundi, whether Burundi agrees or not. They say the deployment is needed to protect civilians and prevent genocide.  In her book Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide, Samantha Power argues that Americans are obliged to protect civilians and prevent genocide with – what else? – our unprecedented military force.  AU “peacekeeping” missions rely on the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) for weapons, training, intelligence, logistics, organization and command.

Nevertheless, on Sunday, 01.31.2016, the African Union’s Annual Summit of member nations dismissed the West’s proposal to deploy AU troops to Burundi without Burundi’s consent.  The Burundian government has said that the fighting is taking place only in some neighborhoods in the capital, Bujumbura, that their own security forces are capable, and that they will respond to any AU deployment without their consent as an invasion. They also said that Burundi’s government, army and police all include members of both the Hutu and Tutsi groups and that there is therefore no imminent danger of genocide.  In 1993, Burundi’s predominantly Tutsi army slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Burundian Hutus after assassinating the country’s first Hutu president, Melchior Ndadaye, who was also its first democratically elected president.

Rwanda’s Role in the Conflict

Over two hundred thousand refugees have fled Burundi since the violence began in the capital in the last week of April. In November, Jeff Drumtra, a former UN official at Rwanda’s Mahama Refugee Camp, told Pacifica’s Flashpoints Radio that he had documented the Rwandan government’s conscription of Burundian refugees into a new rebel army to fight in Burundi. Drumtra said he had submitted his documentation to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, so neither the UN nor the major powers will be able to say, at a later date, that they were unaware of the recruitment.  Rwanda denied Drumtra’s allegations, but Refugees International confirmed them in its December report, Asylum Betrayed: Recruitment of Burundian Refugees in Rwanda.

The African Union Annual Summit

News reports quoted the presidents of Equatorial Guinea and Gambia, as they arrived at the annual African Union Summit on 01.29.2016, stating that they opposed the deployment of African Union troops to Burundi without Burundi’s consent. Senegalese diplomat Ibrahima Fall, the African Union’s Special Representative to the African Great Lakes Region, later told Radio France International that deploying AU troops without Burundi’s consent was “unimaginable.”

“It was never the intention of the African Union to deploy a mission to Burundi without the consent of Burundian authorities,” he said. “This is unimaginable. If the position of these two leaders [Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema and the Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh] is based on this misunderstanding, it is hoped that gradually more communication takes place and that dialogue may settle on these issues. Probably one of the conclusions – because currently these conclusions are tentative – one of the final conclusions of the meeting this Friday will be sending a high-level delegation to Burundi to speak with senior Burundian authorities and initiate a conversation on this issue.”

Opposition to the deployment was not even brought to a voice or roll call vote.  AU member nations no doubt realized that if they authorized the deployment without Burundi’s consent, unwelcome AU troops might be sent across their borders as well.  Article 4(h) of the African Union Constitutive Act provides that the AU has the right to intervene in a member state in “grave circumstances, namely, war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity,” but, had it been approved, the deployment to Burundi would have been its first use.

Charles Kambanda, Rwandan American lawyer and former Law professor[ at the National University of Rwanda, said, “The AU heads of states appear to have properly analyzed the situation in Burundi. It’s clear that the AU Peace and Security Council, pressed by the EU and US, who are desperate for regime change in Burundi, did not do serious research – legal and political – for their naive proposal to force AU troops on Burundi.  Once again, President Kagame and his partners-in-crime, who sought to use AU troops to grab control of Burundi, have been defeated. The truth, not propaganda, will prevail.”

Ann Garrison is an independent journalist who also contributes to the San Francisco Bay View, Global Research, the Black Agenda Report and the Black Star News, and produces radio for KPFA-Berkeley and WBAI-New York City.  In 2014, she was awarded the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize by the Womens International Network for Democracy and Peace.  She can be reached at

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 27, 2016
Paul Street
An Identity-Politicized Election and World Series Lakefront Liberals Can Love
Matthew Stevenson
Sex and the Presidential City
Jim Kavanagh
Tom Hayden’s Haunting
CJ Hopkins
The Pathologization of Dissent
Mike Merryman-Lotze
The Inherent Violence of Israel’s Gaza Blockade
Robert Fisk
Is Yemen Too Much for the World to Take?
Shamus Cooke
Stopping Hillary’s Coming War on Syria
Jan Oberg
Security Politics and the Closing of the Open Society
Ramzy Baroud
The War on UNESCO: Al-Aqsa Mosque is Palestinian and East Jerusalem is Illegally Occupied
Colin Todhunter
Lower Yields and Agropoisons: What is the Point of GM Mustard in India?
Norman Pollack
The Election: Does It Matter Who Wins?
Nyla Ali Khan
The Political and Cultural Richness of Kashmiriyat
Barbara Nimri Aziz
“It’s Only a Car!”
October 26, 2016
John W. Whitehead
A Deep State of Mind: America’s Shadow Government and Its Silent Coup
Eric Draitser
Dear Liberals: Trump is Right
Anthony Tarrant
On the Unbearable Lightness of Whiteness
Mark Weisbrot
The Most Dangerous Place in the World: US Pours in Money, as Blood Flows in Honduras
Chris Welzenbach
The Establishment and the Chattering Hack: a Response to Nicholas Lemann
Luke O'Brien
The Churchill Thing: Some Big Words About Trump and Some Other Chap
Sabia Rigby
In the “Jungle:” Report from the Refugee Camp in Calais, France
Linn Washington Jr.
Pot Decriminalization Yields $9-million in Savings for Philadelphia
Pepe Escobar
“America has lost” in the Philippines
Pauline Murphy
Political Feminism: the Legacy of Victoria Woodhull
Lizzie Maldonado
The Burdens of World War III
David Swanson
Slavery Was Abolished
Thomas Mountain
Preventing Cultural Genocide with the Mother Tongue Policy in Eritrea
Colin Todhunter
Agrochemicals And The Cesspool Of Corruption: Dr. Mason Writes To The US EPA
October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation Wasted $32.2 Million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases