By Keffyalew Gebremedhin – The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)
I am one of those persons puzzled by the regional and international pressures that is targeting Burundi to receive the 5,000-strong African Union (AU) force, known as MAPROBU for the African Prevention and Protection Mission in Burundi. The Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU) approved the force on 17 December 2015.
In the face of the bloodletting and partisan killings in that country, I perfectly understand that the force’s mission is to help manage the conflict in that conflict prone Great Lakes Region. That is to say, the force is required to help reverse the continuing deteriorating situation from “degenerating into widespread violence, with catastrophic consequences for Burundi and the entire region, according to the AU Council”, according to the AU Peace and Security Council.
Therefore, the AU Council as a matter of continuing practice in that decision urged:
“The Government of Burundi to confirm, within 96 hours following the adoption of this communiqué, its acceptance of the deployment of MAPROBU and to cooperate fully with the Mission, with a view to facilitating the effective discharge of its mandate, pursuant to article 7(3) of the Protocol Relating to the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council, which stipulates that the Member States agree to accept and implement the decisions of the Peace and Security Council, in accordance with the AU Constitutive Act.”
From all directions – the AU, UN, member states, the big powers, small activist states, etc., are seen scurrying trying to prevail exerting themselves on Burundi. They urge it to cooperate with the African Union and the international community by accepting the force.
Yes, the only sanity I saw in a long time in Burundi came last Wednesday, December 30/2015 when the authorities in that country said no to the AU force. I know that Pierre Nkurunziza is not doing it for principle’s sakes, or concerned about the country’s sovereignty.
His terror is the legitimate fear that the force might tighten the noose to put him to international justice for the lives lost the crisis his unquenchable thirst for power has started.
Thus the illegitimate government of Burundi took a tough line against the deployment of any peacekeepers into that country, irrespective of their origin, religion or color. This is despite efforts to convince the leadership in Bujumbura and assurances given by AU chief Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma the force “will go a long way in contributing to the creation of conditions conducive to the successful completion of the inter-Burundian dialogue.”
Consequently, in his official response to the request by the African Union (AU), Pierre Nkurunziza simply said on the radio: “Everyone has to respect Burundi borders”.
In explaining what he meant, he stated:
“In case they violate those principles, they will have attacked the country and every Burundian will stand up and fight against them …The country will have been attacked and it will respond,”
While I strongly believe that Nkurunziza and his decision to seek a third-term of the presidency is the source of Burundi’s agony, I hold the view that the course of action he has taken unfortunately is appropriate in the circumstances.
The reason I support Burundi’s refusal to accept MAPROBU is because of its departure from long established international practice in peacekeeping. Any such departure would create a dangerous precedent for future, especially in a world where UN peacekeeping operations are mostly constituted of poor developing countries and dictatorial regimes that see them as a source of foreign currency earnings they are ready to rob from the ordinary peacekeeper – not the generals!
Such proposal and precedent would ignores one of the three United Nations primary considerations in mounting peacekeeping operations; it is the creed of CONSENT of the parties to the conflict. This is applicable in the case of two or three nations or more in conflict situations.
However, in the case of Burundi, an internal conflict though, the consent of the body that is claiming to be government is essential. Acceptance of the peacekeeping operation by the Nkurunziza regime would facilitate fulfillment of the force’s mandate and mission.
An added reason is also the importance of respect for the sovereignty of Burundi, as a state member of the United Nations and the African Union.
Why is the AU an activist in Burundi, when it does not have such a record elsewhere?
In examining why the AU is pushing on sending peacekeeping forces to Burundi, it finds itself under pressure simply because the rest of the world – including the United Nations – have thrown Burundi’s problems on its laps.
For all I know, even as recently as the beginning of December 2015, the United Nations was only toying with the peacekeeping concept for Burundi, i.e., in the form of either ferrying peacekeepers from the Democratic Republic of Congo , or deploying a regional force, if only the violence spirals out of control.
Without the Bujumbura authorities consent, certainly as person in power through crooked means, Nkurunziza and his supporters would be afforded opportunities to target civil society organizations in that country. The UN attributes this to them having led the movement against his re-election bid.
Already, news outlets have been reporting that threats have been as common as the violence in Burundi on both sides. Civilian opponents of the regime shoot officials and military leaders, the combination of which has spiraled violence out of proportion.
On the substance of the merit, the AU’s support to the idea of the peacekeeping force is suspect. There is an extra-African hand that must be pushing this undertaking.
The AU Peace and Security Council has found it easier to base its decision on the recommendations of the fact-finding mission by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR).
I would have been the first person to embrace such ACHPR report, if it has been carrying out its mandate consistently and reports on every human rights violation in Africa from Ethiopia to Angola, Zimbabwe to Egypt, Sudan to Kampala, Gabon to Equatorial Guinea, Congo to Congo DR…the list is long!
I am not doubting the contents of ACHPR’s Burundi report. It
reads in part: “violations of human rights and other ongoing abuses, including arbitrary killings and targeted assassinations, arbitrary arrests and detentions, acts of torture, suspension and arbitrary closure of some civil society organizations and media” are realities of the Burundian situation.
This would leave one to wonder why in all these years the AU or the UN or those concerned powers could not say or do the same thing about, for example, Ethiopia – especially in the light of the killings of elementary and secondary school and university students because they have grievances, as attested by local and international human rights organizations in the case of Oromia region and Gondar in Amhara for several weeks now.
The selectivity may have been dictated because of extra-African interests that want to give attention to the Burundi situation in the light of experiences of the Great Lakes Region, as the womb of worst humanitarian tragedies of the 1990s.
In the circumstances, I am of the view that Africa would be better off erring on the side of principles. This is vitally important especially at a time when our countries are learning they are better off rendering services to the rich nations in the form of peacekeeping and the fight against terrorism, despite its adverse consequences to human dignity and the nations’ human development.
The countries get some funds for small projects here and there. In Ethiopia they feed ethnic projects. Most important for the leaders surely are the strong political and diplomatic support these countries receive from the powers to be, as well as invitations to exclusive international meetings!
Therefore, such countries are free to violate the rights of their peoples, without the UN human rights mechanisms becoming laughingstock of dictators, especially the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Human Rights Council. The AU has no trouble with human rights, since it is a club of dictators;nor does it wag its fingers at them even to pretend for the sake of its Constitutive Act, which makes reference to human rights three times, one of which in Article 4 pledges: “Respect for democratic principles, human rights, the rule of law and good governance.”
Can’t anyone see and understand how free the TPLF in Ethiopia is shooting first like the Nazis used to do and scrambling to identify the dead person’s identity afterwards?
In the area of legitimized authoritarianism, this is how nations relate to each other the class system having sawy on the international system in which international cooperation and collaboration since 2001 has been replaced by the securitization of development.