Nadja Kaukianinen, Online News Editor, reports on the situation in Burundi.
Just a few days ago, I was happily going on about my holiday, enjoying the Sun and making the best of my time with my family. As I was scrolling through Facebook one evening, one of my friends’ statuses caught my attention. It was on the top of my page, and had over 80 likes at the time (now, at the time of writing the article, it has over 100).
I can, with a somewhat uneasy feeling, admit that I had no idea what she was referring to and decided to look it up. What I discovered was not pretty, and certainly not meaningless. As focused as we are on what is happening in Europe and the USA, I think we should sometimes, if not constantly, be exposed to what is happening in Africa, as well.
It all began last April. The president of the time, Pierre Nkurunziza, announced he want to continue in the office for a third consecutive term, which caused multiple protests around the country. The Army of Burundi attempted a coup, but failed, and elections were held in July. As Nkurunziza won, the elections were called “a joke” by opposition and the people against Nkurunziza are give five days to surrender their weapons. Yet, protests continued, and on Friday the 11th 87 people were killed as there was yet another clash between soldiers and the common people.
Regarding the whole incident, there are a few very concerning facts. Firstly, Burundi is struggling to re-emerge after a civil war, which was based on ethnicity. Another civil war would be crucial for a country that is only starting to heal after slaughtering each other for 12 years. Secondly, the way the situation is developing as of the moment, is pointing towards a potential genocide. There has been no sign of calming down, and were this to continue, it is likely it won’t be stopped before something drastic happens. The UN has already stated they will not be able to interrupt too significantly. Thirdly, Burundi is neighbours with Rwanda, which is a country with a troubled past in it’s own right. Burundi and Rwanda share the same nation (Tutsi and Hutu), division between people (be it ethnical or regional) and the same government structure. The Rwandan genocide, that only lasted a year yet killed an estimated of 0.5 – 1 million people, happened in 1994, still freshly remembered by many, and it serves as an unfortunate example for Burundi. Rwanda’s genocide was the follow up of a Civil War, and Burundi recently had one of those. All in all, things are not looking too good for Burundi.
Why should we, then as Westerners, care? Burundi is far away from us, and as one of the world’s poorest countries it has no importance to us whatsoever. There is no political, economical, or social impact. Wrong.
Burundi’s events point to a huge distinction between the two main ethnicities. The Civil War broke out because of the inability of the black to gain access to Burundi’s resources, and race keeps being brought up in the recent conflict as well. Human rights are being brutally broken every single day, with reports of torture and arbitrary killings. The UN has stated it will try and interfere, which also means money – money, of which over 6% is UK’s contribution. Further, in the last few months, over 200,000 people have fled Burundi in fear, and it is certainly going to be have an effect on European countries, sooner or later. Burundi is also the second largest supporter of US State Department issued mission against terrorism in Somalia, which links to other terrorist groups around the world, too.
So now you know. And hopefully, now you also care.