The East African Community (EAC) has betrayed Burundi, one of the five-member strong regional bloc, by remaining silent as the country’s fragile peace and stability goes up in smoke.
President Pierre Nkurunziza’s announcement on April 25 that he would vie for another term during the June general election sparked off protests calling on him to renounce his ‘third term’ plans. Nkurunziza came to power in 2005 after a 12-year-long conflict, by a parliamentary vote. He was re-elected under universal suffrage in 2010.
The political opposition and the civil society said Nkurunziza’s move contradicts the content of the Constitution of Burundi, which in Articles 96 and 302, says no president will serve for more than two terms. The Arusha Peace Accord, which restored peace in Burundi, also limited the maximum presidential term to two – of five years each.
So far, at least 12 people have died in the most serious protests since 2005 when the 12-year civil war ended. The UN refugee agency UNHCR put the number of those who have fled to neighbouring countries at more than 20,000.
The EAC should not allow any country in the bloc to create conditions that have ripple effect on other countries.
The refugee burden in the region has serious consequences, including security concerns. That is why Kenya is threatening to close refugee camps. The Burundi political crisis recycles the challenges the region has faced over the years. The regional bloc should, therefore, move to arrest the situation in Burundi before it deteriorates further.
We call upon EAC under the leadership of the current chairman, President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, to take interest in the Burundi protests. EAC should firmly bring warring parties onto the negotiation table, and urge them to respect the peace accords that brought stability to Burundi in 2005.
The parties in the Arusha Peace Accord agreed, among other things, to commit themselves to refrain from any act or behaviour contrary to the provisions of the agreement, and to spare no effort to ensure that those provisions are respected and implemented in letter and spirit in order to ensure genuine unity, reconciliation, lasting peace, security for all, solid democracy and equitable sharing of resources, are achieved.
Eminent leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki of South Africa; Mwalimu Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and President Museveni worked back and forth to end the Burundi conflict. Their efforts should not be in vain.
We should learn from our history and read the signs in Burundi accurately.
The issue: Protests in Burundi
Our view: The regional bloc should, therefore, move to arrest the situation in Burundi before it deteriorates further.