Burundi Government Accused Of Humanitarian Crimes


Since 2015, Burundi has been a topic of concern due to the political uncertainty following the president’s decision to take up a third term in office. After winning the re-election, President Pierre Nkurunziza sparked protests and was criticized for what some would call ‘unconstitutional’ behaviour.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry gave a report on Monday, September 4th, 2017, bringing forth some serious allegations against the government of Burundi, headed by President Nkurunziza. The Commission is accusing the Burundi government of humanitarian crimes, ranging from sexual violence to outright killings, which have been ongoing since the beginning of Nkurunziza’s re-election (2015).

“We were struck by the scale and the brutality of the violations. We also noted a lack of will on the part of the Burundian authorities,” said the President of the Commission, Fatsah Ouguergouz.

The members of the commission openly appealed to the International Criminal Court to open an investigation against Burundi’s government. The Commission stated that “[They] continue to receive reliable, credible and consistent information confirming that these violations are still taking place in Burundi today.” According to the Associated Press, some of the perpetrators are officials in the military, police, and the National Intelligence Services.

If the allegations are true, the political future for Burundi looks uncertain, regardless of international intervention. As well, the Burundi government is refusing to cooperate with the UN, which is telling. However, the approach the UN is considering could prove to be unproductive, especially if the Burundi government is unwilling to cooperate, which seems to be the case. For instance, the president’s spokesman has already criticized the UN Commissioners via Twitter, suggesting that they were “paid to reach conclusions.” Nevertheless, the UN will most likely put pressure on the African Union to collectively deal with Burundi’s political situation, which is a good idea in theory. With that said, African intervention, as opposed to international intervention, seems to be a promising alternative route. The African Union has intervened multiple times to support and uphold the constitutions of Africa countries.

Moreover, Burundi was at the centre of national ethnic violence back in 1994 and since then the country has been in recovery, both socially and politically. The conflict was due to the tribal rivalry between the Hutu rebels and Tutsi-controlled army. President Pierre Nkurunziza was a former Hutu rebel leader in the Burundi civil war, but as of 2005 he was elected into office by parliamentarians and has served ever since. Over the course of Nkurunziza’s two terms, he has been accused of election fraud and corruption. In addition, his unconventional re-election for a third term outraged the opposition, and there was a rise in protests and rebel attacks. As well, President Nkurunziza’s government has been increasingly hostile toward media and journalists, both national and international, shutting down some privately-owned media outlets, such as radio broadcasts and newspaper prints, while censoring others.

With that said, as tensions continue to rise within the country the chances of another civil war or coup is within the realm of possibility. International condemnation does not seem to have the desired effect, instead, it has only made the Burundi government more unfriendly and hostile. As such, the proposed International Criminal Court case will most likely continue to deteriorate relations. Therefore, it appears that the most reasonable position would be to allow or support the African Union in its efforts to find a peaceful solution, whether that be immediate intervention or long term transitions.

Eli McGarvie

Eli McGarvie

Graduate from the Australia National University, studying a Masters in writing at the University of Queensland.
Eli McGarvie

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