Burundi politics’ overspill into EAC a letdown

06Jan 2019
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Burundi politics’ overspill into EAC a letdown

QUESTIONS are being asked as to the likelihood of cohesion in the East African Community (EAC) in the wake of tough positioning by Burundi leader Pierre Nkurunziza as to Rwanda not being an EAC fellow member state but a foe.

Rwanda President Paul Kagame did not directly respond to those remarks but issued a veiled threat to the country’s enemies to beware, wherever they are, in the thick of a military drill in which he participated in the uniform of commander in chief.

He is also the historic commander of the Rwanda Patriotic Army as it overthrew the slaughterhouse Hutu regime of the 1994 genocide period.

As a matter of fact the frontal attack on the Rwandan state and implicitly its leader was only a diplomatic posturing for the fact that the Burundi leader, expected to step down next year but leave in place a fully charged CNDD-FDD regime that he now leads, is pitching hard.

The declaration of enmity with Rwanda coincided with issuing an ‘international arrest warrant’ for his predecessor at the Bujumbura State House, Major Pierre Buyoya, for his part in the killing of President Melchior Ndadaye just three months into his mandate, in October 1993. This dastardly act sparked the civil war and contributed to igniting the genocide.

There is no question that Burundi contentions are hard to map out, how they are or can be resolved; for instance, the way in which the legislature there can form a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the parameters for its tasks.

One method favoured by President Nkurunziza is to look into what happened in that country up to 2008 when the various political parties signed up to the Arusha Accords, while key opposition parties wish for looking into the period since then.

Obviously the bad guys up to 2008 were those allied to Major Buyoya, while their replacements since 2008 are those in office in the past decade.

Issuing an arrest warrant for ex-president Buyoya is to intervene, manu militari, in the matter of what that commission should so, namely that the High Court there should issue a verdict, via the trial of Maj. Buyoya on the killing of President Ndadaye and responsibility for the civil war which then ensued in full manner.

There isn’t much that EAC leaders can do to help out with this situation as each country must live out its demons and pay for its sins, without let or hindrance. What can be done is to set up a proper mechanism for administrative follow up on issues, not depend on the EAC summit as it is now unreliable.

The EAC has seen that kind of situation before, when Tanzania was not on speaking terms with Uganda from January 1971 to December 1976 when the EAC collapsed, for other reasons.

The EAC heads of state were not meeting but position documents would be signed by ministers on authority from the respective Heads of State. That can also be done at present, so that the diplomatic tiff between the two neighbors is ignored, not puncturing the EAC Secretariat.