More on Burundi

A commenter, Dastan Kweka, has an interesting reaction to the post on Burundi (see below).

He contends that: (i) at the time the crisis erupted only Uganda was in a position to take up the role of mediator; (ii) Tanzania’s revealed preference for president of Burundi seems to be Nkurunziza (unless they are sure of an amenable replacement); and (iii) that the EAC is already robustly involved in Burundi and that my characterization of the body is inaccurate (“a pure invention”). Here is his reaction in full:

I have been following and researching the crisis in Burundi for a while now (more than 6 months) especially in relation to the role of the imbonerakure militias. I feel that i am in a position to make informed comments. Therefore, i will point out a few things that the author has either overlooked or chosen to ignore as follows:

1. The analysis is not situated within the context under which the crisis was born and which to a larger extent conditioned EAC`s response. When the crisis unfolded in April 25th, Tanzania was preparing for a (political) transition. Kenya was preoccupied with Al Shabab and internal corruption allegations involving senior political figures especially cabinet secretaries. Also, ICC issues especially for the deputy President. Rwanda has always been undesirable when it comes to responding to the situation in Burundi mainly because of the historical animosity. So, the only country that was relatively well positioned to respond at the time was Uganda. And it did respond through EAC. Prior to the appointment of Museveni, EAC consulted with Burundi authorities several times and asked for postponement of elections. As a result, Burundi Presidential elections were rescheduled twice. From June to July 15 then to July 21st. Museveni was appointed to lead the EAC mediation effort in mid July and was endorsed by international parties (ICGLR, AU,UN). It is quite obvious that EAC acted swiftly in a bid to address the then unfolding crisis in Burundi, although the mediation efforts, at the time, failed.
The situation changed in October when election fever engulfed Uganda, which is scheduled to hold Presidential elections in February 2016. When Amama Mbabazi and Kizza Besigye won nominations to run for President of Uganda in the upcoming election, Museveni knew things weren`t going to be business as usual. He therefore sought to commit more time to campaigning and thus delegated mediation efforts to his Minister of Defence, one Kiyonga. Until this stage, mediation efforts were going well. Looking back, we can now agree that delegating was a strategic mistake, but it was necessitated by the context. Mr Kiyonga has failed to even obtain a single inclusive meeting of the conflicting parties. By the way, to what extent is a mediation effort led by a defense minister high-level?
Mr Opalo has argued that “EAC has avoided any kind of direct intervention in Burundi to end what is a singularly political crisis ….“. Isn`t the effort above an example of direct (political) intervention? What kind of intervention is he talking about or would he want to see? In his analysis, he tends to move (covertly) from political intervention to military intervention, without any clarity.
Current information shows that EAC has upgraded the readiness of its standby force and is carrying out necessary preparations in case a need for deployment arises. EAC/AU have military and human rights observers on the ground in Burundi and are working in collaboration with UN in putting together an immediate inclusive dialogue. There is no evidence that they (EAC members) are seeing any difficult in (military) intervention. Isn`t the intervention argument as advanced by the analyst, a pure invention?
2. Intra-regional politics. On this aspect, i somehow agree with Mr Opalo that the region does not have a consensus on the outcomes of the mediation effort. Kagame would want Nkurunzinza to go. Tanzania, i think, wants him to stay until the country can be sure about the stance of a person that will replace him (that is being able to influence his replacement). Uganda and Kenya may be neutral for not having serious interests in Burundi.
Why do i think Tanzania wants him to stay? When the crisis was about to unfold in Burundi in March, 2015, Tanzania made its position clear that the constitution and terms of the Arusha agreement had to be respected. But when Nkurunzinza decided to go ahead with the election, the country, i believe, reneged on its position and sent election observers. Many other countries and international bodies did not. I believe this move signaled a change of position. But, i think, Tanzania remains in full support of the resolution of the conflict through inclusive dialogues.
In my opinion, i think, EAC/AU – through Uganda, was responding well and had the situation under control until, at least, September. In October, Museveni`s attention shifted and mediation efforts faltered. Intra-regional politics are playing a role in slowing down the mediation effort especially as some regional forces strive to boost the position of the sides they are backing so as to, considerably, tilt the political settlement in their favor during negotiations.

Whether or not the EAC has responded “well” to the Burundian crisis, as Mr. Kweka suggests, should be judged by the outcomes. There were meetings and preparations and the appointment of a mediator, yet the body count continues to increase. The EAC should have done more.

One of the reasons for having an international organization like the EAC is so that it can address issues that individual countries may be incentivized to ignore due to domestic political considerations.

Also, it looks like the African Union has approved a possible peacekeeping mission to Burundi (subject to the invitation of the government of Burundi). This is probably a way out of the problems of intra-EAC politics that I highlighted in the earlier post. Unless, of course, Burundi decides to stall the peacekeeping mission by forum shopping between Addis and Arusha.

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