MBONEKO: Burundi should not seek to blackmail world on war

Burundi police are reported to have arrested a British and a French journalists. [Photo/Reuters]

By Mboneko Munyaga, East African News Agency

By choosing to send peacekeeping troops to Burundi, Africa may have finally decided to be “my brother’s keeper” although Bujumbura is not enchanted by the African Union (AU) idea, taken without invitation from the government.

About a fortnight ago, the AU’s Peace and Security Council resolved to send a 5,000-strong peacekeeping force to Burundi to stem almost a year of escalating violence triggered by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to contest a third term last April and a failed coup d’etat in May. Nkurunziza went on to win a July election boycotted by the opposition and described by the United States as “deeply flawed.”

The opposition says President Nkurunziza’s decision was unconstitutional, which he counters citing a court ruling that cleared him to run for a third term as proof of the legitimacy of his decision. He also maintains that he was only elected by parliament during his first term in power following the peace deal in Arusha, Tanzania in 2005 that ended 12 years of civil war in which more than 300,000 people were killed and thousands sent fleeing across the border into exile in neighbouring countries.

True, the AU decision was unusual but so also is the situation in Burundi where Africa and the world have over the years spent equally disproportionate resources working for peace and stability in the tiny but violence prone country.  According to the United Nations, 400 people have been killed in the current turmoil while 200,000 have fled the country, mostly to neighbouring Tanzania and Rwanda.

Burundi has warned that a peacekeeping forces arriving without invitation from the government will be considered as an attack and a violation on the country’s sovereignty. Besides, the government claims it has enough forces to ensure peace in the country. But reports from the capital, Bujumbura are quite unnerving. Bodies of civilians feared to have been killed by the military and gangs of militia from the ruling party, CNDD-FDD, are found almost daily on the streets of Bujumbura, making some to fear the country is steadily slithering into civil war.

What the Burundians should understand is that the international community is firmly bent on fighting impunity. They should also not try to mislead global opinion with claims that the country enjoys peace and stability simply because it has peacekeeping troops of its own in Somalia and the Central African Republic.  That could only be compared to a patient in a hospital ward extending a cup of water to a fellow patient. It doesn’t make him any the better or cured.

It is important for the Burundians to welcome the AU peacekeeping troops knowing very well that Africa is not acting alone but is being supported in efforts to find lasting peace for their country by the global community. Secondly, all the parties in Burundi should take seriously the new round of the East African Community (EAC) brokered peace talks that kicked off in Entebbe on December 28, 2015 under President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda.

As President Museveni said at the start of the talks, the Burundi question could be resolved in a day but talks are dragging on and on because of very intransigent positions taken by both sides, the government negotiators and the opposition that numbers more than a dozen teams.

For the EAC, the Burundi problem could be compared to trouble in a brother’s house.  There were reports of possible boycott of the next round of the talks in Arusha, Tanzania, the seat of the EAC. Well, the Burundians should understand too that there is a price for everything.

They say for the AU troops to match into their country without invitation from the government would be considered as an attack. Well and good. But, when armies of refugees spill over into neighbouring countries is that not a devastating invasion from Burundi? Burundians should be grateful in that they have a shoulder to lean on in their times of greatest need. Many people do not have that opportunity.

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