From Protesters to Rebel Assailants in the Burundi Capital

The streets of Burundi’s capital are once again witnessing the unraveling of an order that has been in play for the two presidential terms of President Pierre Nkurunziza.

Last Friday’s violence gives testimony to the unrest and discontent that has been quietly brewing in the minds of a great majority of Burundi’s civilians. The recent attacks that took place across the capital can be considered as the most violent and brutal that the country has seen since a failed coup in May. Fierce attacks were carried out on some three military camps in and around Bujumbura resulting in more than 80 bodies being found around the capital. With some success,the violence was controlled and the rebels were held off.

Burundi is a nation that has experienced great political controversy in recent years. The nation has been governed by Nkurunziza for 10 years, since his rising to power after a civil war which had a death toll of 300,000. Having served two terms as president, and  despite it being unconstitutional, Nkurunziza ran a third time for president, where he won majority vote. Despite this result, regional and international bodies have expressed great doubts concerning the electoral outcome, claiming that the conditions for a credible and free election were not adhered to.

The present situation as it stands sees young men of local communities taking it upon themselves to formulate military rebel groups , stockpile weapons, carry out premeditated attacks on law and order forces, and organise security patrols. Far from the unarmed demonstrators that once stood in the place of these violent attacks, the situation in Burundi is at a critical point. How is it that individuals that participated in non-violent campaigns in response to the current government presently find themselves in the position of armed rebels?

The outbreak of the current violence can be linked back to lack of submission to the the nations constitution and the peace agreements that originally brought the civil war to an end. Instead of maintaining the country in line with the stipulated agreements made in peace deals years earlier, there has been direct and deliberate violation of regulations put in place specifically for the purpose of avoiding violent backlash.

Aside from the very flagrant noncompliance with constitution, people are also showing their discontent in regards to the racial tensions that lie beneath the perpetrated violent behaviours. There is no hiding the fact Nkurunziza was once himself a rebel leader, and the attitudes that were present with the nation in the civil war era have an unprecedented influence on the display of attitudes being witnessed in this political conundrum.

The current political instability can be neutralised if the root of these issues are sincerely addressed. The conflict that Burundi is currently facing does not find the core of its problems in just its leadership, but also in the institutional strategies that govern the sharing and distribution of equal access and possibility in the economical and political sphere. Unfair division of opportunities for the Hutu’s and the Tutu’s automatically creates not just financial superiority but also ethnic dominance in both the economic and political sectors.

If Burundi seeks earnestly to leave behind the legacy of discrimination and find solid resolutions to the violence and distaste it is essential measures are taken to guarantee there is an implementation of methods that deal harshly with the issues of ethnicity, ensuring that a social mobility and access to resources is available to all irrespective of ethnic background. In alignment with this it absolutely crucial that leadership adheres entirely to previous effective agreements to keep at bay the possibility of another more detrimental civil war.