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Burundi Crisis: Impoverished African nation weeps as no one shows interest in this nowhere land

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    Image Credits: Reuters

By Rukma Singh

Last month, Burundi had erupted in a series of street protests against the president’s decision to run for a third term in office. The protests have been met with great force by police. Several civilians and police officers have been killed. The emerging and developing political crisis in Burundi, is complex to understand. What is essential to keep in mind, however, is how the international community’s role will eventually attain supremacy in giving a direction to the situation.

The crisis

In March of last year, President Pierre Nkurunziza, narrowly lost a vote in parliament, that would have removed term limits and allowed him to run for a third term. The period immediately after the vote, offered an opportunity for the international community, to rally around the Burundian elite to ensure that the norm of term limits stuck, sufficiently isolating Nkurunziza and his allies. In a country of Burundi’s size, how the international community engages with local issues matters a great deal for the domestic conduct of politics.

History

Ever since Burundi achieved independence from Belgium in 1962, the country has experienced various episodes of mass and revenge killings between Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups. The bloodshed reached its peak during a 10-year civil war, during which over 300,000 people were killed. In 2002, a successful but tenuous peace was established through the groundbreaking Arusha Accords, and for the first time, ethnic differences appeared to be put to one side.

Increasing turmoil

The government had taken an increasingly authoritarian approach, cracking down on independent media and civil society – including the arrests of Pierre-Claver Mbonimba, a human rights activist, and Bob Rugurika, a popular radio journalist. There have been credible reports that the government, and, to a lesser extent, the opposition were actively arming the youth wings of their parties. At the end of 2014, a massacre took place in Cibitoke, in which at least 47 people were killed, an event that underscored the increasing potential for larger scale atrocities within Burundi.

One thing can be said for the crisis unfolding in Burundi over the past month and a half: it has put this small impoverished East African nation, which most Israelis cannot locate on a map, into the international news cycle.

The ray of hope

On the one hand, socio-economic problems, rising social discontent and extrajudicial killings put severe strains on the government. On the other hand, parallel dialogues have recently started between the European Union and the Burundian government, and between Burundian political actors.

Continuing these parallel dialogues and consolidating peace in Burundi will require mutual concessions by the ruling party and the opposition. It will also require that the donors maintain dialogue with the authorities on the political and security problems, and resort to financial incentives, particularly for the preparation of the elections and the security sector reform. International efforts should focus on protecting journalists and civil society activists, empowering the independent human rights commission, and promoting a security sector reform centered on human rights.

Recent developments

The head of the African Union Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, on Saturday, urged rival-sides in Burundi to engage in dialogue to solve the political crisis gripping the central African nation.

“We would like to encourage all the parties to engage in constructive dialogue placing the interest of the country and the people, welfare and lives of their people and stability and peace above all else,” said AU chairwoman, Dlamini-Zuma at a peace and security meeting in Johannesburg, on the eve of an African Union summit.

Since last month Nkurunziza has faced international pressure to reconsider his attempt to stay in power, which observers fear could plunge the country back into war.

The country will hold parliamentary elections on June 29 and a presidential poll on July 15.

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All you need to know about T.T.V Dinakaran

T.T.V Dinakaran, the nephew of V.K. Sasikala, is a politician of Tamil Nadu.

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The Dinakaran and OPS factions were fighting for the two leaf symbol of AIADMK. Wikimedia commons
The Dinakaran and OPS factions were fighting for the two leaf symbol of AIADMK. Wikimedia commons

About a year ago, the state of Tamil Nadu lost its ‘Amma’. Since then, the state has witnessed political chaos with three Chief Ministers and an ‘almost demise’ of AIADMK. DMK and BJP were seen to be taking a clear advantage of the situation. Having Sasikala in jail and Dinakaran battling with central agencies, many say BJP has played its cards well.

T.T.V Dinakaran, the nephew of V.K. Sasikala, is a politician of Tamil Nadu. He is facing a case with ED probing deposits money into his accounts between 1991 and 1995. He has also served as a member of Lok Sabha, as well as Rajya Sabha.

The world heard Sasikala's voice for the first time after Amma's death. Wikimedia commons
The world heard Sasikala’s voice for the first time after Amma’s death. Wikimedia Commons

Who is V.K. Sasikala?

J Jayalalithaa used to call Sasikala her ‘soul sister’. Other than two occasions when Jayalalithaa cut her ties with Sasikala, the later was known as someone ‘Amma’ couldn’t do without. V.K. Sasikala was like a shadow of Jayalalithaa but not much was known about her.

However, everything changed on 5th December 2016 when Jayalalithaa died. Within 12 hours, Sasikala appointed O Panneerselvam as acting Chief Minister. She took over as general secretary of AIADMK when the general council unanimously passed a resolution. It was the first time when Sasikala came into light. The world heard her voice for the first time.

She allegedly forced OPS to resign in an ambition to become Chief Minister herself. But when OPS made revelations to the media about Sasikala, the politics of Tamil Nadu went into chaos. What followed was her conviction in a Disappropriate Assets case, she was sentenced to 4 years in jail.

Dinakaran fell out of favour after Central Agencies came in. Wikimedia commons
Dinakaran fell out of favour after Central Agencies came in. Wikimedia Commons

Dinakaran comes in

Dinakaran had moved to Poes Garden along with his aunt Sasikala following Jayalalithaa’s death. He was appointed deputy general secretary hours before Sasikala surrendered. Five years ago, he was expelled by Jayalalithaa after reports of him interfering in the party and government functioning came in.

He was then reportedly lobbying with the rebel members of OPS came to join back the parent party. It wasn’t long after when he was contesting the RK Nagal bypoll (vacated by Jayalalithaa) as an AIADMK candidate. He had a staunch victory. However, his cards didn’t go well when the Income Tax department stepped in.

Several of his loyalists were raided and the election stood cancelled. The Delhi Police had lodged an FIR, after a few days, accusing him of bribing the EC for the party’s symbol. Shortly, he faced an arrest in Delhi.

Delhi Police changed the game for BJP. Wikimedia commons
Delhi Police changed the game for BJP. Wikimedia Commons

Things go wrong for Dinakaran

Sasikala in jail, Dinakaran facing Delhi Police, and several document incriminating ministers. This situation had led their faction to the knowledge that their ‘tracks stand exposed’ and hence, they sought protection. In these circumstances, OPS was another name of protection. Since he was the one with Delhi behind his back. Everyone knows Delhi backed OPS despite the objection of Tamil Nadu BJP unit.

With the tables turning, the same people who had ditched OPS in favour of Dinakaran, went running back to him. They said that a single family cannot control AIADMK. They demand Sasikala and Dinakaran must quit. People who had requested Sasikala to become the General Secretary now say ‘unity’ and the Government are of prime importance.

After the AIADMK merger, BJP looks forward to set foothold in local elections. Wikimedia commons
After the AIADMK merger, BJP looks forward to setting the foothold in local elections. Wikimedia Commons

‘The plot’

  • Alleged attempts at bribing voters.
  • Allegedly engaging with a history-sheeter to pay EC official.

These were Dinakaran’s mistakes. They came up in the light of his impatience to gain power. All he didn’t know was that central agencies were waiting for them. The agencies acted once the mistakes came in. They warned his associates.

The same Dinakaran who was in complete control during the dramatic ‘vote of confidence’, has no one worthwhile to back him now. His loyalists are now saying that the real AIADMK is headed by OPS.

Game Over!

The plot was understood. There was no other option than playing along. Dinakaran agreed to abide by the party and assured he wouldn’t fight back. He even stood for the merger of OPS faction back into the party. All these points towards the fact that he is aware that his game is over. He is no more in the situation to play the game of politics, now his game is survival.