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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.

Next Story

Narendra Modi Dismisses The Opposition Grand Alliance as a ‘Failed Experiment’

Calling upon every party worker to ensure that his booth was strong, he said that nothing could stop the party from coming back to power in the coming elections

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Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi (Wikimedia Commons)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday dismissed the Opposition grand alliance as a “failed experiment” and said that parties are coming together to defeat “one man” to form a “majboor” (helpless) government for solely indulging in corruption while the country wants a “majboot” (strong) government.

Asserting that there has not been a single scam in his government, he said this was proof that a government can be run without corruption.

In his valedictory remarks winding up the two-day BJP National Convention at the Ramlila Maidan here, he came down heavily on the opposition parties, saying there were aligning for their “self interest” while the BJP-led NDA government was fighting for the nation’s interest.

“These days a campaign has been going on to promote mahagathbandhan which is a failed experiment of Indian political history. The parties, which were born protesting against the Congress, its working culture and its corrupt practices, are now uniting,” Modi said in a direct attack on most of the regional parties which are forging a grand alliance with the Congress at the national level.

He told over 12,000 delegates including from top brass to district-level office bearers that these political parties were surrendering to the Congress at a time when the grand old party was at its lowest ebb and its leaders were out on bail in corruption cases.

“These parties (the regional parties), which had emerged as options against Congress, have betrayed the people’s mandate and trust,” he said.

The Prime Minister said that when such alliances take shape, the governments in those states work under political compulsions and cited the examples of recent developments in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

“The Chief Minister of Karnataka (H.D. Kumaraswamy) is saying that he was working like a clerk and not as a Chief Minister. In Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, the governments are being threatened (by allies) to take back cases or face the consequences,” he said calling these incidents as “trailers” of the grand alliance.

Modi, BJP
Mahagathbandhan a failed experiment, country wants a majboot not majboor sarkar: Modi. VOA

Modi said that politics is done on the basis of ideologies and alliances are made on visions but for the first time it is happening that “when all are uniting against one man”.

“You need to understand and make the people understand what is behind their intentions. They have joined hands to form a ‘majboor’ government because they do not want to see a strong government which has ended all the corrupt practices,” he said.

“They want to do good to their families and relatives, while the country wants a strong government so that everyone can develop. They want a government which can broker in defence deals while the country wants a strong government to fulfil every need of the armed forces.

“They want a helpless government so that they can do scams in the name of farmers’ loan waiver while we want a strong government to empower the farmer. They want a government so that the urea scam can happen, while we want a government so that the farmers get fertilizers on time and fair price of their crops,” he said.

Referring to various alleged corruption cases like 2G, 3G and CWG of the UPA regime, the Prime Minister attacked the Congress and their allies and said his government was giving modern facilities to the children so that they can move forward in the field of sports with honesty and transparency.

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“We want a strong government so that everyone in the country can take advantage of Digital India Mission, so that the country could feel proud on the success of Gaganyaan, so that the country gets benefits with the mines,” he said.

Referring to his government’s ambitious Ayushmann Bharat Scheme, he said that his government was focussing to provide free treatment to 100 million families while the opposition wanted a government which could do scams in the healthcare sector.

Calling upon every party worker to ensure that his booth was strong, he said that nothing could stop the party from coming back to power in the coming elections.

“Last four years have taught us that nothing is impossible. We have made it possible. When we took over, we inherited a weak foundation. Today our foundation is getting stronger. Imagine what will happen if we get another five-year term,” he said. (IANS)