Burundi, DR Congo Still Crises Prone, As Burkina Faso Offers Hope
WHILE Burundi has perpetually enjoyed the status of one of the world’s topmost nations on the poverty index (second poorest nation according to the World Economic Forum’s Network Readiness Index), its neighbour, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s level poverty is harder to explain, given the abundant mineral resources the country enjoys. Beyond their state of the economy, both countries may be on the same troubled page of desperate journeys to repeating history of civil war. A history Burkina Faso, another desperately poor country, seems to be overcoming.
AFTER surviving series of conflagrations, Burundi is gradually becoming home of violence and there are growing fears that the present one may eclipse previous ones. In 1972 the violence that erupted in the country led to the first genocide that claimed the lives of thousands of people and made many flee to neighboring countries such as Zaire, Tanzania and Rwanda.
The second genocide occurred in 1993 in the very fragile country, ethnically divided into two –– majority Hutus and the minority Tutsi. The then President Melchior Ndadaye (Hutu) allegedly led a pro-Hutu government and was murdered by some Tutsi soldiers, an action, which set off prolonged violence between the two rival tribes.
One of the central fallouts of the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation agreement, which ensued, was that the country’s President is entitled to two terms of office. The civil war on this basis ended in 2005, even as many consider the agreement as the foundation for peace in the country. The treaty, which required a power sharing system, was expected to ensure a peaceful co-existence among the warring tribes. President Pierre Nkurunziza came into power upon this understanding.
By April 2015, the President, of the Hutu stock, allegedly manipulated the state apparatus to contest election for third term.
Despite calls for postponement of the July 21 elections, Nkurunziza went ahead and was consequently sworn in on August 20.
But while he must have won the battle of perpetuation in office, Burundi has remained in crisis, which now tilts towards a repeat of the events of 1972 and 1993, which almost obliterated the world’s second poorest country. The capital, Bujumbura, as well as, surrounding areas have been the theatre for a spate of shootings and assassination attempts.
Nkurunziza-led government yesterday reacted angrily to the African Union’s decision to deploy a 5,000-strong peacekeeping force to curb the violence, saying it will prevent foreign troops from entering its borders.
The AU’s Peace and Security Council agreed on Friday to deploy an African Prevention and Protection Mission (MAPROBU) for an initial period of six months, primarily to protect civilians.
DR Congo’s first experience with the Europeans (Portuguese and British) may have set the tone for its turbulent history over the years, as the country continues to wallow in one conflict after the other. Seemingly blessed with every type of mineral resources, yet consistently rated lowest on the UN Human Development Index, where even the supposedly fortunate live in poverty. A combination of slavery, colonialism and corruption have turned one of the potentially rich countries on earth to one of the poorest. According to reports, the uranium for the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States during Worlds War II came from a mine in southeast Congo.
Limitless water, from the world’s second-largest river, the Congo, a benign climate and rich fertile soil, beneath the soil; abundant deposits of copper, gold, diamonds, cobalt, uranium, coltan and oil are just some of the minerals that should make it one of the world’s richest countries.
During the week, at least 28 people, including seven civilians, one UN peacekeeper and four soldiers, were killed after a rebel attack. A Ugandan rebel group, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), which now has its base in Congo after being pushed out of Uganda, carried out the attack.
In a quick reaction, UN helicopters launched strikes against the rebels in the northeast area of the country ravaged by a regional war that ended in 2003 and still plagued by armed groups.
2016 would, however, be very crucial for the country as President Joseph Kabila’s mandate expires after elections in November. He has been in power since 2001. Though, he has not openly come out to comment about his political future, there are strong indications that he intends to stay put in power. There are calls from the opposition for international mediator.
Former governor, Mr. Moise Katumbi, who owns Congo’s popular football club and current African champion, TP Mazembe, said Kabila’s allies want to violate the constitution to keep the President in power beyond 2016. Katumbi resigned from the ruling party in September. Kabila’s call for national dialogue ahead of 2016 election has been dismissed as ploy to elongate his tenure after two consecutive terms.
This fear cannot be waved away, if events trending on the continent are any yardsticks. Congo neighbours, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi are clear indications of the fear of tenure elongation.
WHILE promises “to open up the opportunities for a better tomorrow,” by Roch Marc Christian Kabore, the newly elected leader of Burkina Faso is a good music to many, he may have to do more than beautiful speeches to meet the expectations of thousands of jubilant citizens that poured out into Ouagadougou on November 29.
He has his work cut out for him. Kabore’s country is a very poor, landlocked one that survives essentially on exporting gold and cotton. Burkina Faso has scant resources to satisfy the yearnings of its largely youthful population for a better life. According to a New York Times, the country will need more development aid to help the President improve the country’s health care, education and agricultural production.
Regional security wise, it is very essential Kaboré succeeds. Burkina Faso is a small country, but plays a big role as western ally in counterterrorism efforts against terror groups operating in the region, notably in neighbouring Mali.
The country’s remarkably successful election also provides a very good example to other leaders in the continent, who are tempted by lifelong rule.
However, it is yet to be seen how re-opening of old wounds, killing of the former President Thomas Sankara, would aid current effort or serve justice in the fragile nation.
Recently, authorities announced they were charging General Diendéré with complicity in the murder of Sankara, in 1987, which paved the way for President Blaise Compaoré to seize power.
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