BURUNDI: International community acts to avoid another Rwanda
from OMEGA SSUUNA in Bujumbura, Burundi
BUJUMBURA, (CAJ News) – AT a recent meeting in Brussels, the Belgian capital, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) appealed to the international community to act urgently on Burundi to avoid “a second
The allusion to the neighbouring East African country not only highlights the gravity of the civil strife currently characterising Burundi after President Pierre Nkurunziza’s successful but controversial bid to win a
third term in office but evokes gloomy memories of one of the most infamous genocides known to mankind.
In Rwanda, in 1994, up to 1 million Tutsi and politically moderate Hutu, were killed as most of the world stood on the sidelines, seeing the genocide as not of sufficient interest and value to warrant prevention of the violence, expense of resources or the risk of losing more casualties.
The delay caused thousands of Rwandan lives to be lost and mentally and psychologically scarred millions of those who lived to tell the story.
In the events that took place after the genocide, some government officials around the world mourned over the loss of many and were surprised about the world’s obliviousness to the situation that could have prevented the massacre from taking place.
With the situation in Burundi escalating towards genocide of Rwandan proportions, the international community cannot afford to stand in the sidelines.
Recent disturbances in Burundi, sparked by the poll that retained Nkurunziza following a boycott by the opposition, bear the hallmarks that led to the bloodshed in Rwanda.
About 300 people have been killed since April in the run up to Nkuruniza’s retention of power.
The casualty figures are a tenth of the civil war that rocked the country in 1972, ten years after independence from the Belgian administrative authority.
“The number of people killed in Burundi continues to steadily grow, as does the number of people forced to flee their homes,” he said, noting that “Targeted attacks are also on the rise and are now taking place in neighbourhoods of Bujumbura that were previously considered to be safe,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.
More than 280 000 Burundians have sought refuge in neighbouring countries or have been internally displaced.
Police presence is heavy in Bujumbura and search operations continue in some neighbourhoods, often accompanied by killings, arbitrary arrests, ill-treatment and sometimes extortion as well.
Recently, the Burundian authorities suspend ten non-governmental organisations, including several organisations working on peace and human rights issues, such as torture and the rights of women and children.
The General Prosecutor of the Republic requested various banks to suspend the accounts of the ten NGOs targeted by the ministerial decree.
Al Hussein deplored the decision.
“The sad reality is that Burundian civil society has been significantly weakened since the beginning of the crisis.
“Many human rights defenders and civil society activists have been killed, assaulted, arrested, threatened or forced to flee the country,” said Al Hussein.
Hate speech fanned by political leaders is on the increase.
The deteriorating situation has compelled human rights groups to appeal to the international community to act urgently to avoid genocide in Burundi.
Last week, United States President, Barack Obama, imposed sanctions against perpetrators of the crisis.
The Executive Order provides the authority to block the assets of those who, among other things, have engaged in or provided material support for actions that threaten peace and security, undermine democratic processes,
or who are responsible for or complicit in human rights abuses against people in Burundi.
The Order also imposes visa restrictions on those individuals meeting the criteria for the asset freeze.
In enacting sanctions, the United States joined the European Union and the African Union, which have also decided to impose sanctions on those Burundians undermining peace in the country.
Ned Price, US Secretary Council Spokesperson, is hopeful such measures will curb the violations.
“Burundi is on the precipice, but there is a clear path available to Burundi’s leaders to avoid further violence and reach a political solution to the crisis.
“Now is the moment for all sides in Burundi to demonstrate the strength and leadership necessary to put aside violence and engage in an internationally-mediated dialogue outside Burundi,” said Price.
He expressed his country’s solidarity with countries in the Great Lakes region, AU, EU and UN African Union, European Union, United Nations in curing the crisis in Burundi.
“As President Obama said in his recent message to the people of Burundi, now is the time to stand against violence and to begin the hard work of uniting,” added Price.
Al Hussein also retained hope.
“There is still a chance and hope that Burundi can avoid a full-fledged civil war.
“This is why I urge all actors involved in the current crisis to refrain from violence and to engage in a meaningful and truly inclusive dialogue,” said Zeid.
– CAJ News
Short URL: http://cajnewsafrica.com/?p=10431