Burundi’s crisis: Complacency, inaction or racism – or all of it?

There is no end, it seems, to diplomats and government representatives who “express concern”, appeal, urge the parties to show restraint, warn, condemn etc. All words, no deeds.

European leaders reaction is basically silence – while 16 Europeans killed in the office of Charlie Hebdo made them walk arms in arm in Paris.

When I think of Burundi today, all these words by Martin Luther King, Jr on complacency and inaction fit the international so-called community.

There never was a truly human concern behind all the interventions in oil-rich, or otherwise strategically important, countries.

If the Responsibility to Protect meant anything but self-interested, geopolitical interventionism, governments and diplomats would stop talking and wringing their hands now and get their planning tools in place – with the aim to save every Burundian, the region and the world from yet another – preventable – catastrophe.

If Burundi’s crisis had happened in or closer to Europe, would European leaders not have reacted?

If your answer is “I think so” then we are talking about structural racism – whether intended or not, whether conscious or not. It means a system of thought, or a paradigm, embedded in our culture that builds on the tacit, collective assumption that black people are unworthy of the concern, compassion and solidarity that we automatically apply – indeed find natural to apply – to white people in crisis.

4 responses to “Burundi’s crisis: Complacency, inaction or racism – or all of it?

  1. Totally agree with your views Jan and thank you for caring . Double standards, divide and rule imperial policy in application in some parts of the world while African mineral resources are being looted. Some African leaders and the world super power leaders as a whole are all to blame. If you haven’t watched the documentary , follow the link below. http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=vJ8ZCX4NGHY

  2. I have been active working with non-profit orgs in Rwanda since shortly after the genocide of 1994. You are absolutely right that the West only cares if the people dying are white, or if there is an economic or strategic political interest there. It was shattering to meet with Rwandans who had somehow survived their terrible genocide and realize that our western nations had pretty much washed their hands of Rwanda. I was a representative of the nations that had written them off, and I had to humble myself before them in repentance. I have read Romeo Dallaire’s books and heard him speak about his efforts to get the UN to do something. So much of the carnage was preventable, with just a few more resources. Dallaire is a truly great man and a hero for what he tried to achieve, against insurmountable odds. The experience left him deeply wounded.
    At the same time, I have to admit that the machetes that did the killing were in Rwandan hands. In the 15 years I have been working there, I have often heard people castigate the European and N. American powers for their complicity in the genocide, but I have yet to hear Africans stand up and take ownership of the sins of their own people. I have heard second hand that some such events happened, but have yet to witness it.
    Yes, the West has had a hand in causing much misery in Africa, but I have too often seen examples of Africans screwing other Africans while we try to help the very people they are screwing. So I don’t think better media coverage from the white nations alone is the solution. I presently work with a number of Rwandan and Ugandan people who are making huge strides towards helping their own people (building schools, child sponsorships, vocational training for women, etc), so I know it is possible for Africans to help other Africans.

  3. thanks for your propositions, our country need help, in this moment we don’t know how we’ll be in next days. Please, we still need your help, we need to be developed.

  4. Many thanks for these valuable comments. I agree with them all – and while one must certainly discuss who is to blame for what – at this very moment we must look ahead and discuss what can be done to save lives. As you’ll see from earlier TFF PressInfo on http://www.transnational.org about Burundi there are, in my view, both internal and external reasons that things have fallen apart over time. At this moment, however, President Nkurunziza’s leadership, the ruling party and the police and military must be blamed almost 100% for terrorizing their own people and creating what, to me, look like the beginning of a civil war or a new genocide. God forbid!
    I hope you can share some of these PressInfos.

    My best and thanks! – Jan

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