Burundi is a country with very special characteristics. It’s always been in the shadow of Rwanda and relatively neglected by the international community.
A very very serious crisis is now unfolding because its president, Pierre Nkurunziza, is willing to risk everything to get elected for a third 5-year time which is very dubious according to the constitution. It’s a country with a GDP per capita of around US$ 300 and the Global Power Index places it as Number One in the world in terms of percentage of the population going hungry.
Nkurunziza’s first years were in many ways very positive but since about 2008 there is no evidence of real change or leadership. The only Burundians, it seems, who want him for a third term are his own ruling party and the poorest and illiterates in the countryside. Virtually all segments of society want him to step down.
The people are protesting and the ruling party’s response is now coming close to dictatorship – with killings, arrests, tear gas, water cannons, closing down of civil society organisations, cutting communication and closing down all non-state media.
I write a bit about this since I have worked on and off in Burundi between 1999 and 2012 with youth organisations and other civil society organisation, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a university and others. I fear very much what could happen the next weeks and months and sense how woefully inadequate the international community’s response is. Here is a clear case where a genuine humanitarian intervention would be appropriate – as it is likely that it could save lives before it is too late and put a break on Nkurunziza’s authoritarian manners. The international community must do more than lame standard appeals about respecting human rights and free elections – which this regime is know not to do.
I also discuss how the world community is better at running wars than preventing them and that early warning must be followed-up by early listening and early action. That is dearly needed in this little beautful country – and needed now.
Here is this and much more in TFF PressInfo # 318.