Conflict In Burundi: One Year Later

One year after violent civil unrest broke out in the Central African State of Burundi last April, the United Nations Agency for Refugees reports that almost 260,000 people have been displaced. An estimated 430 have been killed and 3,400 arrested, says International Criminal Court Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda. This precarious predicament has left many in constant fear of their own shadows, even though things are beginning to stabilize. Meanwhile, several continue to attempt to escape to the already overcrowded refugee camps of Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Addressing the present state of affairs, leading humanitarian activist, Marguerite Barankits (who has been awarded for her humanitarian work in favor of children), has called on the international community to take action against Pierre Nkurunziza for dragging the country into what could, possibly, result in another bout of civil war.

“I want to reiterate a cry of alarm to the International Community: don’t leave us to die like flies or little mice because we are your brothers and sisters,” she told the UK-based International Business Times

She accuses Pierre Nkurunziza of killing academics and intellectuals, those who can rebuild the country. She observes that the focus of pro-government militia and security forces has shifted from opposition to young Tutsis. Furthermore, she has pointed a finger at France, a country of reputable influence in the affairs of African states, for turning a blind eye to the crisis, and has called on the International Criminal Court to prosecute Nkurunziza.

In April 2016, a Business Insider report stated that the International Criminal Court prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda is opening a preliminary probe to address the situation. However, it has been revealed that this action is not part of an official investigation, and it has not been determined how long it will last. Geraldine Mattioli-Zeltner of Human Rights Watch welcomed this move, which she refers to as “only the first step.”

Also, the United Nations has led the unanimous adoption of Resolution 2279, which was submitted by France to ask for the deployment of police forces to protect the civilian population. However, the resolution fails to provide for the deployment of peacekeeping forces, which could prevent a replay of the civil war that ended in 2005. United Nations Chief, Ban Ki Moon describes the situation as “precarious and alarming.” The European Union has suspended any funding to Burundi, an action described by Burundi’s Foreign Affairs Minister as “disappointing.” NGOs continue to report cases of human rights violations and targeted assassinations. The United Nations Commissioner of Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has also reported a rise in torture, with an estimated 595 perpetrators left to impunity.

The crisis sparked in April of last year is largely a result of Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term as president against the two terms that are prescribed by Burundi’s constitution. Burundi also has a long history of a sectarian civil war, which ended in 2005 with the ascension to power of the present president. This explains why he has become targeted as the root of Burundi’s civil war by many Burundians and the international community alike.