Twenty-five years ago, in April 1994, the havoc of genocide visited Rwanda. In a three-month-long paroxysm of violence, almost a million souls died. The country was devastated, the remaining population cowed, government non-existent, and the economy in shambles. Twenty-five years ago, in April 1994, the havoc of genocide visited Rwanda. In a three-month-long paroxysm of violence, almost a million souls died. The country was devastated, the remaining population cowed, government non-existent, and the economy in shambles.
Talks about ending Burundi’s crisis – sparked by the president’s decision to seek a third term – have fizzled out. With elections nearing in 2020, tensions could flare. Strong regional pressure is needed to begin opening up the country’s political space before the balloting. What’s new? After almost three years, the Inter-Burundi Dialogue has ended in failure. Next steps are unclear as regional leaders reject handing over mediation to other institutions while not committing wholeheartedly themselves to resolving the crisis. Elections due in 2020 carry a real risk of violence unless political tensions ease.
Why did it happen? The East African Community (EAC) took the lead on mediation in Burundi though it lacks the requisite experience, expertise or resources. Absence of political will and divisions among member states, coupled with the Burundian government’s intransigence, made successful dialogue among the parties impossible.
Why does it matter? Without urgent intervention, the 2020 elections will take place in a climate of fear and intimidation. This would increase risks of electoral violence and people joining armed opposition groups and ensure that Burundi continues its descent into authoritarianism, raising prospects of another major crisis with regional repercussions.
What should be done? Regional leaders should use their influence, including threats of targeted sanctions, to persuade the government to allow exiled opponents to return and campaign without fear of reprisal. The EAC, African Union and UN should coordinate to prevent Bujumbura from forum-shopping and not allow Burundi to slip from the international agenda.
Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, Djibouti, Liberia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Nigeria, Rwanda, Somalia, Burundi, Eritrea, Ghana, Guinea, South Sudan, Guinea-Bissau, Cameroon, Comoros, Gabon, Seychelles, Sao Tome and Principe, and Republic of Congo