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Burundi political unrest can be addressed through peaceful means

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Added 6th January 2016 09:11 AM

This political unrest has resulted into hundreds of deaths while others have hopelessly fled their homes seeking refuge status in the neighboring countries of Rwanda, DRC and Tanzania

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By Rev Titus Shem Makuma    

The tension in the Burundian capital Bujumbura calls for timely intervention of both the regional and the international community.

In so doing both the government and the people of Burundi will be guided to avoid the political backlash which may revive the past unhealed wounds created between the minority Tutsi and the majority Hutu.

Burundi has been in the headlines since 25 April 2015 when the ruling political party, the National Council for the Defense of Democracy – Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), announced that the incumbent President of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza, would run for a third term in the 2015 presidential election.

The announcement sparked protests by those opposed to Nkurunziza seeking a third term in office.

This political unrest has resulted into hundreds of deaths while others have hopelessly fled their homes seeking refuge status in the neighboring countries of Rwanda, DRC and Tanzania.

The country of Burundi has come a long way and her people were just beginning to settle down in social and economic engagements.

All these efforts are being washed down by people with negative minds and selfish ambitions in society. Obviously these are leaders who do not carry the nation at heart.
Past lessons:

The 1993 assassination of Hutu President Melchior Ndadaye sparked a civil war between Hutus and Tutsis that also significantly influenced the Hutu-led 1994 Rwandan genocide. The government and people of Rwanda through the able leadership of President Paul Kagame have since then put the socio-economic and political pieces together in order to forge the way forward for their beautiful country.

I urge the leadership in Bujumbura to borrow a leaf from their brothers in Rwanda. I appeal to President Paul Kagame of Rwanda to put aside political differences and open his fatherly arms and heart to the suffering people of Burundi.

Of course our own President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni is already taking a lead through mediation process. The mediation effort should be enhanced by other heads of government in the East African region that is to say, Kenya, Tanzania and DRC.

Burundi is a small nation with only 10.82m people (2014) and the GDP of 157.52 billion USD (2014) World Bank Report.

The GDP per capita of Burundi is equivalent to 1 percent of the world’s average. The GDP per capita of Burundi averaged 172.58 USD from 1960 until 2014 (World Bank). Burundi’s economic freedom score is 53, making its economy the 132 freest in the 2015 Index.

Burundi is ranked 27th out of 46 countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa region, and its score is worse than the world average. Burundi comfortably lies behind Somalia, Eritrea, Central African Republic, Madagascar and Malawi among others.

Land-locked Burundi is one of the world’s poorest nations and one of the most corrupt countries in sub-Saharan Africa. All these factors should should serve as a motivator for the government and the people of Burundi to unite and constructively build their small nation.

They should focus on institutions and better infrastructure instead of promoting hate and violence across the country. Wake up Burundi!

The Pierre Buyoya legacy:
Former President Buyoya, who has extensive political, diplomatic and military experience, may greatly assist in the mobilization process of the much-needed African and international support geared at restoring peace in Burundi.

Major Pierre Buyoya (born 24 November 1949 in Rutovu, Bururi Province) is a Burundian politician who has ruled Burundi twice, from 1987 to 1993 and from 1996 to 2003. With 13 years combined as Head of State, Buyoya is notably the longest serving President of the tiny nation of Burundi.

 In September 1987, Buyoya led a military coup d’etat against the Second Republic of Burundi, led by Jean-Baptiste Bagaza and installed himself as the first President of the Third Republic. He proclaimed an agenda of liberalization and patching relations between Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups.

Following a Hutu uprising in August 1988, which caused approximately 20,000 deaths, Pierre Buyoya appointed a commission to find a way to mediate the violence. This commission created a new constitution which Buyoya approved in 1992. This constitution called for a non-ethnic government with a president and a parliament.

Democratic elections were held in June 1993 which were won by the Hutu Melchior Ndadaye who created a balanced Hutu and Tutsi government.

Nevertheless, the army assassinated Ndadaye in October 1993 and Burundi returned to civil war. Nearly 150,000 people were killed as the war raged. The coalition government under Sylvestre Ntibantunganya was unable to stop the fighting.

On July 25, 1996 with strong support and backup from the army, Buyoya returned to power in a military coup. The civil war became less intense but continued.

Economic sanctions were also imposed by the international community because of the nature of Buyoya’s return to power, but were eased as Buyoya created an ethnically inclusive government.

Buyoya strategically selected as his vice-president Domitien Ndayizeye, a Hutu. The conditions of the governmental agreement required Pierre Buyoya to hand over power 2003 which he did. Ndayizeye became the President of Burundi on April 30, 2003.

Again I appeal to the leadership in Bujumbura to borrow a leaf from Major Pierre Buyoya’s exemplary leadership that focused on the unification and economic development of the country.

Ghana’s Jerry John Rawlings legacy:

Across the sub-Saharan borders, another political icon in the name Ft Lt. Jerry John Rawlings still commands high respect on both the military and political fronts.

The arrival of Rawlings on Ghana’s political terrain in 1979 has been widely publicized. Notably, Jerry John Rawlings has been, sort of, an enigma on the Ghanaian political terrain for more than 20 years.

And presently, Rawlings remains a larger-than-life figure in Ghanaian politics, even though he has been out of office for almost a decade.

In my own perspective the two incredible personalities in Buyoya and Rawlings can combine well to bring about intended political stability in Burundi.
The writer is a lecturer at the Mountains of the Moon University.
Phone: +256 772 652 077
Twitter: @tmakuma

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