Why Burundi Exposes the Crisis in the Slogan 'Regional Solutions to Regional Problems' in Africa


A recent report on the crisis in Burundi by the Rift Valley Institute (attached below) details the nature of the crisis in the tiny Great Lakes country. But first here is my take: Burundi is in a perpetual crisis which is a tragedy in and in itself. But the crisis goes beyond Burundi and challenges the role of Africa’s regional organisations and questions their legitimacy.

Clearly the violent turnaround of constitutional order also leads to the crisis and unravelling of the Arusha Accord. Moreover, it has reinforced the crisis in the normative framework that has gained much currency in Africa in recent year’s i.e. African Solutions to Africa’s Problems and the belief that regional organisations should be the first to act to resolve a crisis in their neighbourhood. The crisis goes on and on and on. The pattern of behaviour has been that neighbouring countries in the Great lakes region and elsewhere in Africa prioritise their own interests and intervene unceremoniously and aggravate the problems in their respective countries.

No wonder President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi is taking advantage of this which allowed him to kill his way to prolong his stay in power. The result being even major powers in Africa seem inclined to approve his deadly actions for partisan agendas. Nkurunziza’s smuggling operations through Eastern Congo and illicit trade and the benefits gained from it, shared with Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete hosted the latest EAC peace talks, is major reason for his country’s support to Nkurunziza. In this sham, I think that, the South Africans are leading from behind, and it’s quite unfortunate given that along with the African Union, they are guarantors of the Arusha Agreement. Meanwhile the Rwandese are apprehensive fearing that FDLR members are crossing into Burundi from the DRC, and has demanded that Burundian authorities stop them setting up camp there – almost certainly the first stage in justifying Rwandan intervention if there are indications of mass killings.

A possible split of the region into two rival blocs is worrying observers. The worry is that the region will split up into two rival blocs with Tanzania, Burundi and Kenya on one side and Rwanda and Uganda on the other. As usual this leaves the African Union in an awkward position. The strongest indication of the AU’s displeasure is that it has refused to send observers to the June parliamentary and local elections, stating that there was no way they could be free or fair. Alas, the slogan African Solutions to Africa’s problems and regional peace-making is in disarray. The norm stipulates the region becomes the first to involve whenever a crisis erupts in an African country but the problem is that neighbouring countries promote their own interests that makes them involve in opposite sides to aggravate the conflict. The case of Rwanda and Tanzania in Burundi is a good case in point. The case of Sudan and Uganda in the South Sudan conflict is another.Download the report by the Rift Valley Institute-Burundi at the Crossroads - RVI Nairobi Forum Meeting Report 2015.pdf




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