FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Stopping the Violence in Burundi

With the recent mass political unrest and failed military coup against Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza–after he announced his run for an extraconstitutional third term–the African Union along with the United Nations appealed for ethnic harmony there. This addressed fears that weeks of political unrest could prompt another round of fight between Hutus and Tutsis in the center of Africa’s Great Lakes region.

The conflict started April 26 after Burundi’s Constitutional Court ruled in support of President’s Nkurunziza’s decision to overrule Burundi’s constitution and stand for a third term. There were reports that judges were intimidated. As a result of the upheaval, tens of thousands fled the country.

His critics say Nkurunziza’s attempt to defy the constitution endanger a peace deal brokered to keep ethnic tensions in check since the end of the civil war in 2005. The bloody conflict between the majority Hutu and minority Tutsi since have all but disappeared, although political parties still have distinctly ethnic features. The president is Hutu, most of the opposition leaders are Tutsis, and they have seized on the ethnic divisions and distorted them into something far more complex.

Burundi emerged from a brutal civil war a decade ago but according to United Nations there are fears that the crisis right now could reignite the frictions that existed during the civil war. Burundi has experienced 40 years of armed violence and civil war since gaining independence from Belgium in 1962. The United Nations along with Amnesty International estimated that 300,000 people died in the conflict in Burundi, which has the same ethnic mixture as neighboring Rwanda, where 800,000, most of them Tutsis and moderate Hutus, were killed in a 1994 genocide. It’s clear that political instability and deep rooted unresolved grievances continue to threaten inter-ethnic cooperation and security in the country and the Great Lakes in general.

So what is behind the current political instability in Burundi? Even though the conflict is based on President Nkurunziza’s decision to campaign for a third term, the conflict has an economic dimension. Many Tutsis argue about the lack of access to job opportunities and resources, and their grievances cut across the ethnic divide. It’s well documented that unequal distribution of resources perpetuates dominance and creates violence as seen in many African conflicts. Wars arise from distributional conflict; achieving political stability will require the establishment of institutional mechanisms that correct the legacy of inequality, and afford parity access to economic and political power across the ethnic groups in Burundi.

Failure to find solutions to Burundi’s political instability will have devastating social, political, and economic effects on the Great Lakes region, an area that is already worn out by conflict and poverty despite—some say because of—an abundance of valuable natural resources.

There is, indeed, reason for seeing Burundi as a catastrophe in the making. It has a vicious cycle of intergroup violence, with militias pre-empting politics and crowds of refugees on the move. The conflict in Burundi could metastasize to other areas of the Great Lakes, which could throw the entire region into danger yet again.

The African Union, in concert with the United Nations, must spearhead solid multilateral conflict resolution mechanisms to avoid the spillover effects. If not, ethnic conflicts are contagious in the Great Lakes and can rampage virally across borders.

In light of this conflict, I hope that the international community will increase its efforts to avert disaster in Burundi. Already the EU has pulled election observers and the Catholic Church has announced it will not assist, as it usually does, in organizing and monitoring the election. Leaders in the Great Lakes region should take a hard look at their actions and policy choices. Emphasis here should be on discouraging corruption, embracing ethnic harmony, transparency, and good governance.

It is therefore important that if President Pierre Nkurunziza is serious about building peace, he must stop repression of opposition figures and tolerate dissent—or he should face serious personal economic, social, and travel sanctions from the international community. He must also implement constructive methods of handling ethnic differences, engineer institutions that uproot the legacy of discrimination and promote equal opportunity for social mobility for all members of Burundi’s ethnic groups. The UN and African Union stand ready to help.

Foday Darboe is syndicated by PeaceVoice and is a PhD candidate in Conflict Analysis and Transformation.

 

More articles by:

Foday Justice Darboe is a Ph.D. candidate in Conflict Analysis and Transformation.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
November 18, 2019
Olivia Arigho-Stiles
Protestors Massacred in Post-Coup Bolivia
Ashley Smith
The Eighteenth Brumaire of Macho Camacho: Jeffery R. Webber and Forrest Hylton on the Coup in Bolivia
Robert Fisk
Michael Lynk’s UN Report on Israeli Settlements Speaks the Truth, But the World Refuses to Listen
Ron Jacobs
Stefanik Stands By Her Man and Roger Stone Gets Convicted on All Counts: Impeachment Day Two
John Feffer
The Fall of the Berlin Wall, Shock Therapy and the Rise of Trump
Stephen Cooper
Another Death Penalty Horror: Stark Disparities in Media and Activist Attention
Bill Hatch
A New Silence
Gary Macfarlane
The Future of Wilderness Under Trump: Recreation or Wreckreation?
Laura Flanders
#SayHerName, Impeachment, and a Hawk
Ralph Nader
The Most Impeachable President vs. The Most Hesitant Congress. What Are The Democrats Waiting For?
Robert Koehler
Celebrating Peace: A Work in Progress
Walter Clemens
American Oblivion
Weekend Edition
November 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Meet Ukraine: America’s Newest “Strategic Ally”
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Frankenstein Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Ukraine in the Membrane
Jonathan Steele
The OPCW and Douma: Chemical Weapons Watchdog Accused of Evidence-Tampering by Its Own Inspectors
Kathleen Wallace
A Gangster for Capitalism: Next Up, Bolivia
Andrew Levine
Get Trump First, But Then…
Thomas Knapp
Trump’s Democratic Critics Want it Both Ways on Biden, Clinton
Ipek S. Burnett
The United States Needs Citizens Like You, Dreamer
Michael Welton
Fundamentalism as Speechlessness
David Rosen
A Century of Prohibition
Nino Pagliccia
Morales: Bolivia Suffers an Assault on the Power of the People
Dave Lindorff
When an Elected Government Falls in South America, as in Bolivia, Look For a US Role
John Grant
Drones, Guns and Abject Heroes in America
Clark T. Scott
Bolivia and the Loud Silence
Manuel García, Jr.
The Truthiest Reality of Global Warming
Ramzy Baroud
A Lesson for the Palestinian Leadership: Real Reasons behind Israel’s Arrest and Release of Labadi, Mi’ri
Charles McKelvey
The USA “Defends” Its Blockade, and Cuba Responds
Louis Proyect
Noel Ignatiev: Remembering a Comrade and a Friend
John W. Whitehead
Casualties of War: Military Veterans Have Become America’s Walking Wounded
Patrick Bond
As Brazil’s ex-President Lula is Set Free and BRICS Leaders Summit, What Lessons From the Workers Party for Fighting Global Neoliberalism?
Alexandra Early
Labor Opponents of Single Payer Don’t  Speak For Low Wage Union Members
Pete Dolack
Resisting Misleading Narratives About Pacifica Radio
Edward Hunt
It’s Still Not Too Late for Rojava
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
Why Aren’t Americans Rising up Like the People of Chile and Lebanon?
Nicolas Lalaguna
Voting on the Future of Life on Earth
Jill Richardson
The EPA’s War on Science Continues
Lawrence Davidson
The Problem of Localized Ethics
Richard Hardigan
Europe’s Shameful Treatment of Refugees: Fire in Greek Camp Highlights Appalling Conditions
Judith Deutsch
Permanent War: the Drive to Emasculate
David Swanson
Why War Deaths Increase After Wars
Raouf Halaby
94 Well-Lived Years and the $27 Traffic Fine
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Coups-for-Green-Energy Added to Wars-For-Oil
Andrea Flynn
What Breast Cancer Taught Me About Health Care
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail