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“Burundi crisis needs solution, not inaction”
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“Burundi crisis needs solution, not inaction”

Joshua Orawo feb picViolence in Burundi is creating refugees and poses a risk to neighbouring countries, writes Joshua Orawo, 26, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Kenya, who argues for new leadership in the mediation process.

Burundi is killing her own, and the continent and the world seem to be watching from a safe distance.

Even the countries immediately neighbouring Burundi seem to be going about their business as usual, while bloody bodies of comrades whose lives have been cut short by an illegal regime litter the streets of Bujumbura.

The regime, led by the controversial incumbent, is meting terror and atrocious acts on civilians in broad daylight. The history of Burundi as a highly ethnically volatile country means that the political class may attempt to portray the conflict in ethnic rather than political terms, which state of affairs would be more detrimental than what we have already seen because ethnic tension lies close to the surface in the country.

Little if any was learnt from the Burundian genocide of 1972, where there was mass killing of Hutus by the Tutsi-dominated army, or the 1993 mass killings of Tutsis by the majority-Hutu populace. Meanwhile, the United Nations is calling upon the international community to end the killings in Burundi in a way illustrative of helplessness and desperation.

The mediation talks led by the Ugandan President Museveni have been on and off without clear outcomes before recently stalling completely. I have questioned the appointment of Museveni to lead mediation talks surrounding a controversial third term mandate when he is himself vying for his fifth term in office, having secured a constitutional change to vie for a third term in 2005. What makes anyone think that Museveni will be objective in his approach to the mediation talks when the controversial incumbent of Burundi is showing every sign of being his very keen student? It is my view that if the talks have to be led by a Head of State, he or she must be from a country with clear and working presidential term-limits. Uganda is, lamentably, not that country.

Other than the foregoing, Museveni is currently a busy man on the campaign trail, trying to woo the citizenry of Uganda and as such not appropriate as the lead mediator. I’m certain that if he has to choose between his presidential campaign and the Burundi peace talks, he would choose wisely. Meanwhile Africans continue to die.

Is there a hands-off approach, especially by the African heads of state, towards Burundi’s woes? An emphatic yes. African leaders are neither condemning the killings in Burundi nor the controversial incumbency apparently at the heart of the violence, and rightly so because they are birds of a feature. They would not dare stand for what seems right because they are arguably not ready to apply those standards to themselves. They lack the moral authority to ask the Burundi’s incumbent to respect the rule of law because they have long concluded the burial service for the said rule of law, especially regarding Presidential term limits in their own countries. As a matter of fact, Rwanda is going to a referendum to change the constitution to allow the President to vie for a third time. This move will allow the Rwandan incumbent to once more be on the ballot in the next general elections taking place in 2016.

Meanwhile as leaders watch, a major crisis is looming in the region as a result of the ongoing conflict in Burundi. A potential escalation of the violence into ethic terms is as perilous as it sounds. Any ethnic conflict in Burundi could possibly spread in the region, inciting passions in neighbouring countries. It is worth noting that Rwanda, for instance, has a similar ethnic formation as Burundi.

Apart from the extra-judicial killings and assassinations, many people are fleeing Burundi for neighbouring countries, where they end up in refugee camps. The UNHCR records as at 15th December, 2015, place the number of Burundians in refugee camps all over the region at 238,417. Flows of refugees as are already happening might provoke further regional instability.

photo credit: TroensBevis-6354 via photopin (license)
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About me: A community-mobilizer, youth activist and laws graduate, I am the Executive Director of Intreach Community, a civil society organisation involved in philanthropy for impoverished children and other under-served societal groups. I work towards all inclusive political leadership, where the youth, women and children can voice their concerns without fear and where equality and mutual respect thrive; and a society where fundamental human rights are revered.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/
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