FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

​Burundi is Africa’s Syria: an Interview with Didas Gasana

The unipolar, US-led global order is facing its most difficult challenge since the fall of the Berlin wall, most notably from Russia and China. This competition is currently most harrowing in Syria, but it is also playing out in the tiny but geostrategic East African nation of Burundi.  Burundi borders Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east, and the hugely resource rich Democratic Republic of Congo to the west. 

In May, Russia and China blocked a UN Security Council resolution to censure Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza for seeking a third term. Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters, “It’s not the business of the Security Council and the U.N. Charter to get involved in constitutional matters of sovereign states.” Earlier, a Russian firm won the contract to exploit Burundi’s nickel reserves, which are probably its most valuable mineral resource.

The country’s highest court ruled that Nkurunziza was constitutionally entitled to seek a third term, and he went on to claim victory in the election, after defeating a May coup attempt. Western governments and press nevertheless continued to excoriate Nkurunziza, as violence continued in the country’s capital, Bujumbura, and on its border with Rwanda.

I spoke to Didas Gasana, a Rwandan journalist who has taken political refuge in Sweden, where he writes that Burundi is Africa’s Syria, deep down in the center of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Ann Garrison: Didas, you wrote an essay publisehd in The Rwandan and the San Francisco Bay View comparing Syria and Burundi. Could you explain your main points? 

Didas Gasana: Both Syria and Burundi are international hot spots, where the global centers of power – that is the US and Russia – are tussling it out. So, basically I was trying to show that what we see in  Burundi is not an internal problem. It’s actually between the Kremlin and Washington D.C., which is the same case in Syria.

AG: You described Burundi as a proxy war. Could you explain?

DG: What distinguishes Burundi from Syria is that in Syria we have the Russian and the US forces sharing the same air space. In Burundi, the US, the UK, Israel and Belgium are using Rwanda – are using Paul Kagame’s Rwanda – while the Russians and Chinese are using Tanzania and South Africa.

AG: We’re being encouraged to think of the Burundian conflict in terms of Hutu and Tutsi. Is there anything you’d like to say about that?

DG:  I am a close cousin of the Burundians. Rwandans and Burundians are close cousins, and I don’t buy that story. I don’t believe that, because when you look at the opposition in Burundi, the people who are opposed to President Pierre Nkurunziza are both Tutsis and Hutus. And in his cabinet, we have got both the Hutus and the Tutsis. So it is not an inter-ethnic divide, and in the end, it all boils down to who is using the opposition against a legitimate government.

AG: With Pierre Nkurunziza’s government being the legitimate government in Burundi? 

DG: Yes.

AG: This week Reuters reported that the African Union Peace and Security Council had urged the AU to send troops to Burundi, so as to intervene in the event of mass violence. What do you think of this? 

DG: Well, personally, I think the African Union should be sending peacekeepers to Rwanda, most especially on the Rwanda/Burundi common border, because we know where the trouble is coming from. Burundi, internally, would be safe had it not been for the intrusion of Rwanda and the power that Rwanda is working for, meaning the US, the EU, and Israel. So, even if we have these troops on Burundian soil, without curtailing Rwanda’s ability to destabilize Burundi, we won’t have any room for peace in Burundi, and therefore no peace to keep in Burundi.

AG: OK, you think the African Union should send peacekeepers to the Rwandan Burundian border because Rwanda is destabilizing Burundi and if Rwanda is not stopped, there will be no peace to keep in Burundi. Right?

DG: Absolutely. That is what I would say, Ann.

AG: Do you think that the AU peacekeepers will intervene in the interests of peace rather than the interests of one or the other side of the competition between two axes, the US/EU and Russia/China? 

DG: Well, first of all we have to look at the international economics and politics of peacekeeping. These peacekeepers, if they’re in Burundi, they may tend to lean on the side that is able to lobby more effectively than the other. So if Russia and China lobby these peacekeepers, they may go on their side.  If the US and the EU succeed in lobbying them more effectively, they may go on their side. It’s all about lobbying. It’s all about politics and economics.  I think that the African Union will be divided on this because Russia and China have influence in the AU, just as the US and the EU do.  So the effect of their lobbying is an important thing to keep an eye on.

AG: Is there anything else you’d like to say about this?  

DG: Well, I’d like to say that the Russians and the Chinese, the ordinary people who pay the taxes and make the government possible, like the ordinary citizens of the US and the EU, they must hold their governments responsible and accountable for their foreign policy. US citizens, Russian, Chinese and EU citizens must understand that the ordinary man is not profiting from resource war and conflict economics in Africa. Multinational corporations are profiting.

Didas Gasana is a Rwandan journalist who has taken political refuge in Sweden because his criticism of President Paul Kagame’s Rwandan government put his life in danger. His essay, “Like Syria, Burundi is a war theater: the China-Russia axis vs. the US-EU axis,” is published on the website of the San Francisco Bay View, sfbayview.com.

More articles by:

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 ann@afrobeatradio.com.

Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Macdonald Stainsby
Unist’ot’en Camp is Under Threat in Northern Canada
Senator Tom Harkin
Questions for Vice-President Bush on Posada Carriles
W. T. Whitney
Two Years and Colombia’s Peace Agreement is in Shreds
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Ramzy Baroud
The Conspiracy Against Refugees
David Rosen
The Swamp Stinks: Trump & Washington’s Rot
Raouf Halaby
Wall-to-Wall Whitewashing
Daniel Falcone
Noam Chomsky Turns 90
Dean Baker
An Inverted Bond Yield Curve: Is a Recession Coming?
Nick Pemberton
The Case For Chuck Mertz (Not Noam Chomsky) as America’s Leading Intellectual
Ralph Nader
New Book about Ethics and Whistleblowing for Engineers Affects Us All!
Dan Kovalik
The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Exposing the Crimes of the CIAs Fair-Haired Boy, Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front
Jasmine Aguilera
Lessons From South of the Border
Manuel García, Jr.
A Formula for U.S. Election Outcomes
Sam Pizzigati
Drug Company Execs Make Millions Misleading Cancer Patients. Here’s One Way to Stop Them
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Agriculture as Wrong Turn
James McEnteer
And That’s The Way It Is: Essential Journalism Books of 2018
Chris Gilbert
Biplav’s Communist Party of Nepal on the Move: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian
Judith Deutsch
Siloed Thinking, Climate, and Disposable People: COP 24 and Our Discontent
Jill Richardson
Republicans Don’t Want Your Vote to Count
John Feffer
‘Get Me Outta Here’: Trump Turns the G20 into the G19
Domenica Ghanem
Is Bush’s Legacy Really Much Different Than Trump’s?
Peter Certo
Let Us Argue Over Dead Presidents
Christopher Brauchli
Concentration Camps From Here to China
ANIS SHIVANI
The Progress of Fascism Over the Last Twenty Years
Steve Klinger
A Requiem for Donald Trump
Al Ronzoni
New Deals, From FDR’s to the Greens’
Gerald Scorse
America’s Rigged Tax Collection System
Louis Proyect
Praying the Gay Away
Rev. Theodore H. Lockhart
A Homily: the Lord Has a Controversy With His People?
David Yearsley
Bush Obsequies
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail