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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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Cho Ramaswamy: The Man Who Wore Many Hats

Cho Ramaswamy won several accolades and awards during his career as an entertainer and as a journalist.

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Cho Ramaswamy was undoubtedly one of the most prominent indian Personalities. Twitter
Cho Ramaswamy was undoubtedly one of the most prominent Indian Personalities. Twitter

By Ruchika Verma

  • Cho Ramaswamy was a multi-talented man who ventured into acting, directing, journalism and politics
  • He was very close to late CM of Tamil Nadu, Jayalalithaa for whom he acted as a philosopher and guide
  • Cho Ramaswamy was very vocal about his criticism of politicians and unethical practices

Srinivasa Iyer or Cho Ramaswamy was an Indian film actor, director, magazine editor, political satirist, and a lawyer. He was born on 5th October 1934 and was one of the most prominent Tamil personalities in India.

Cho Ramaswamy's magazine Tughlak has a huge fan following. Twitter
Cho Ramaswamy’s magazine Tughlak has a huge fan following. Twitter

He was the man of many talents who passed away at the age of 82 on 7th December 2016. Cho Ramaswamy the founder and editor of the Tamil magazine Thuglak, was also a recipient of the prestigious Padma Bhushan award, for his contributions in Literature and Education.

Cho Ramaswamy undoubtedly was one of the most prominent personalities in the southern Indian politics. Here are few things about his life which you may not have known before:

How his career started 

Cho Ramaswamy was first and foremost a lawyer by profession, being born in a family of lawyers. He later branched into theatre, films and finally into journalism and politics.

Cho Ramaswamy won Padma Bhushan for his contribution in the field of Literature and Education. Facebook
Cho Ramaswamy won Padma Bhushan for his contribution in the field of Literature and Education. Facebook

He got into the theatre while he was still practising law. His work as a satirist was very much appreciated. His most famous drama is  ‘Muhammad bin Tughluq,’ it was so brilliant that it became a classic.

He ventured into journalism and founded his own magazine Tughlak, which was mainly focused on the local social and political issues. It was widely and highly appreciated for its satirical and honest views on the politicians and politics. He was fearless in his criticism of the governments.

He later got into politics and was a member of Rajya Sabha from 1999 to 2005. He openly went against Jayalalithaa, when she was at her most powerful, even though she was very close to him. He even predicted Narendra Modi as India’s Prime Minister, long before BJP even declared him as a candidate. He was a true visionary in all senses.

Cho Ramaswamy and Jayalalithaa 

Cho Ramaswamy and Jayalalithaa were one pair of friends whose relationship went beyond friendship to a plane where not all can reach. Jayalalithaa debuted as a child actress with the YG Parthasarathy drama troupe where Cho Ramaswamy was already a star. They worked together in 19 films.

Cho Ramaswamy was Jayalalithaa’s greatest friend but also her most vocal critic. It was the only who was consulted in the matters of Jayalalithaa’s political career by herself and by the star-politician MGR. He acted as her friend, philosopher and guide in films as well as in politics.

The late Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa was extremely close to Cho Ramaswamy. Twitter
The late Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa was extremely close to Cho Ramaswamy. Twitter

You may also like: Iron Lady of India: Jayalalithaa was an inspiration for Women

It is being said many times that the late Tamil Nadu chief minister and AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa once told Ramaswamy that he has to live till she is alive. Interestingly, Cho Ramaswamy died barely 36 hours after Jayalalithaa died. According to doctors who were treating him, before he was put on the ventilator, he watched the live coverage of Jayalalithaa’s body lying in state at Rajaji Hall, Chennai.

There is only one instance of discord between the two, during 1996-2001, where he became a staunch critic of Jayalalithaa because of her unethical ways as a Chief Minister. However, as she mended her ways, he warmed up to her again.

Cho Ramaswamy not only influenced Jayalalithaa’s professional life as an actress and politician, but also her personal life. She considered him her and guide and consulted him before all major decisions.

Ramaswamy and his achievements 

Cho Ramaswamy won several accolades and awards during his career as an entertainer and as a journalist. Apart from being awarded a Padma Bhushan, he also won B.D. Goenka award for excellence in journalism.

Cho Ramaswamy was also famous for his closeness with various prominent politicians, including Narendra Modi. Twitter
Cho Ramaswamy was also famous for his closeness with various prominent politicians, including Narendra Modi. Twitter

His achievements were not only limited to awards. His achievements went beyond that. His association with prominent political leaders like Jayaprakash Narayan, L.K. Advani, Chandra Shekhar, G.K. Moopanar, Jayalalithaa and Narendra Modi, and his role in influencing some of their decisions are noteworthy.

Also Read: Need more Satire and Humour to build bridges between Communities and Societies, says PM Narendra Modi

His achievements as a playwright and actor are also noteworthy. Many of his plays went onto becoming national hits. And he received critical acclaim for his acting as well as his stints as a director.

Perhaps, one of his biggest achievement was the fact that he took many roles throughout his life and ended up successful in all of them. He was indeed the man who wore many hats, and managed to balance them all equally well.