Burundi: The Arithmetic’s (mostly the lack of it) of Two Terms in Bujumbura

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Two years ago, the celebrated columnist Charles Onyango-Obbo penned down an opinion piece in the East African titled, Why Burundi needs a sex scandal to be noticed. As expected this piece did not go down well in Burundi though it did ask an quintessential question;

What can Burundi do to get East Africa’s attention?

It seems the President of Burundi unwittingly and all for the wrong reasons decided to put Burundi squarely on the world map!

In the last couple weeks we have heard and seen disturbing news emanating from Burundi which has been precipitated by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s attempt to run for a third term. Though I am not an expert in the affairs of the great lakes region I have tried to keep myself a breast with the events leading to this situation, as most of us have been. This has been made much easier by my friends and YLF alumnae who are living this horrendous ordeal. We can only hope this situation ends soon so that they can go back to their usual life.

What is more baffling has been the response (mostly the lack of it) to this crisis from the neighboring countries and Africa at large. The current crisis in Burundi did not ‘just happen’ as one would put it, the writing has been on the wall for a considerable amount of time. The regional and continental bodies in which Burundi is a member have been passive to say the least in trying to address the unfolding crisis. Which makes one question the role and need of such institutions – the AU has an early warning mechanism yet its hands seem to be tied in proactively addressing situations such as this when they are unfolding.

Initially, when the issue came to the fore the African Union through its president announced on Twitter that it preferred the issue of the third term to be addressed through the constitutional court (the Senate had taken this matter to the court for interpretation). The African Union had come under considerable criticism especially on its response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa and this time it tried to show where it stood on this matter. However, as would have been expected, and the African Union should have known better! The administration in Bujumbura exerted pressure on the court and as such a ruling (unanimous for that matter) was struck in favor of President Pierre Nkurunziza.

As this was happening people have been fleeing the country, mostly relocating to Rwanda and Tanzania. It is only after reeling to the unfolding humanitarian crisis have the two countries come to the fore on this crisis. One might not be privy but perhaps the East African countries were trying to reach out to President Pierre Nkurunziza through diplomatic channels.
However, the quintessential question which begs is when does the sovereignty of a country end and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) principle set in? Although Nkurunziza administration has cut down access to social networks, the citizens of Burundi like in any other country in the world have found means of by passing these restrictions.

Now one might ask why a president who has already served two terms would be interested in extending presidential term limits (through dubious interpretation of the constitution) so that he can serve another term. Aren’t there qualified people in his party who are a position to take the reins? If not why did he not mentor a successor?

Equally baffling has been the international community response to the crisis, case in point was the recent request by the United Nation’s Secretary General. The UN Sec. Gen. requested Uganda’s President Museveni to intervene in the ongoing crisis. In my concerted opinion, the UN Sec. Gen should have requested the Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete to mediate the crisis since the presidency of the East African Community currently rests with him. We have also seen the foreign affairs ministers of EAC going to Burundi and currently COMESA seems to have sent elder’s to access and possibly intervene.
The problem with this is, if there are many focal points trying to mediate then chances of success are minimal since the president might be bidding his time till it is too late. This concept is well laid down in Back from the Brink – the 2008 mediation process and reforms in Kenya.

This week the EAC heads of state will meet in Arusha to deliberate on the crisis in Burundi. One can only hope that the EAC leaders will come up with a road map to the current crisis in Burindi and that they are able to appoint one focal point to handle the crisis. If the EAC leaders are not in a position to convince President Pierre Nkurunziza to rethink on his candidacy the one can expert more volatile times in the great lakes region.

Recommended readings
1. An idiot’s guide to the Burundi crisis by Daniel K Kalinaki – The East African
2. Raila wants East Africa Community, world leaders to act on Burundi by Moses Njagih – The Standard

The author of this piece is a blogger and a cultural practitioner in Nairobi. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES

Xenophobia

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By: Davis Wesley Tusingwire

“Arachnophobia – the fear of spiders.
Claustrophobia – the fear of small/tight/enclosed spaces.
Xenophobia – the fear of foreigners.

However individuals who are afraid of spiders do not go around killing spiders, rather they avoid spiders. Equally, individuals who are afraid of small and tight spaces do not go around trying to eliminate the existence of small spaces.

Thus, xenophobia does not by definition imply the killing of foreigners. Yet, we continue to label this current wave of killings and murders in South Africa as xenophobic – and now the cooler term – “Afrophobic” attacks. Can we please just get real? What is happening in South Africa is genocide, a genocide fuelled by a deep-seated hatred for which no single foreigner is responsible.” – Lovelyn Chidinma Nwadeyi.

Lovelyn Chidinma Nwadeyi is a Nigerian. Born in Nigeria to two Nigerian parents and raised in Queenstown, Eastern Cape, South Africa by those same parents.

Lovelyn Chidinma Nwadeyi goes further to indicate in this post here that if we think what she is putting forth is too extreme, then we need to revisit what Genocide is, which happens to be the systematic/targeted killing of a specific tribe or race.

Is this not what is happening in South Africa? Is it entirely true that when you have a phobia, you avoid it. But what triggered the killings in South Africa, where even the sight of a pregnant mother or her baby doesn’t stir compassion? A little baby is burnt to death, alive. Its crying goes unheard, for it’s drowned out by the songs of hatred of its attackers. Trying to figure this all out, in my little head and trying hard not to feel the pain stabbing at my shrinking heart, my mind drifts away to the 1994 Rwandan genocide. We felt it here too, and we still do. But what really triggers these moves across the world?

Countries attacking each other, as are almost normal in the Asian countries. The world watched in shock as the Hutus hacked their fellow countrymen, the Tutsis in a bloody genocide in Rwanda. In a space of about 100 days, thousands of people; children, women and men were murdered in cold blood. Families were wounded and broken or separated as the United Nations intervened. In 2014, the BBC released an in-depth report on the Rwandan President, Paul Kagame which implied that he could have fueled the genocide. His former close associates confessed so, in the story feature titled Rwanda: The Untold Story.

Is it the same thing happening in S.A? Did the leaders of those people insight this genocide on foreigners? It is ironical, that while they kill their African brethren, their white oppressors walk free in the land. The closest they could go to attacking them, was bringing down Cecil Rhodes’ statue. Cowards! Or should I say; hypocrites! The leaders denied having any involvement, the Zulu king to begin with, for it started in his township, and then the S.A President … begged his citizens to stop the killings.

As Africans, we are heartbroken. We cannot believe the nation we stood with while they suffered apartheid could turn against us. We could work out a few assumptions, basing on a few of the facts;

The actual people who carried out the brutal killings were actually the poor, the minority. It’s very easy to stir whatever emotion you want from such a group of people, because they are desperate. That need doesn’t allow them to think through their actions. They are like a greedy person biting off more than they can chew, unaware they will soon choke on it. Who said what?

The Zulu king, who was said to have said something that triggered the killings, and later denied any involvement, could have actually said something, but without such intention. Well, you see, he being king means he lives off the contributions from his people. And these people are the poor majority. The really well-to-do usually do not just give away their hard earned wealth to anyone. Meanwhile, professional foreigners are coming in to the area and doing what brought them, earn the most they can. This leaves the indigenous people poorer and unable to contribute as much to the king. Probably somebody pointed it out to him and in a bid to advise his people, it sparked more fire than he envisioned.

We could go on and on. But what form of justice can undo this? Families across Africa have lost their beloved; some have lost the sole bread earners, in such a manner that they can’t even have their bodies given a proper burial.

With globalization, we trade and live as one. The world is one global village! We acknowledge that not all South Africans agreed to or participated in these xenophobic attacks. There is a reason this happened and we pray that the souls who started this and those who still think such levels of violence are a solution to their problems, find peace in other hearts and feel the love from across the world. May they be moved by the gravity of their mistake and seek reconciliation with their African brethren. God is for us all.

For God and My Country!

Excerpts used in this post from Lovelyn Chidinma Nwadeyi can be accessed on this link

Davis Wesley Tusingwire is a member of FESYLF (Uganda), you can follow him on twitter @w_tusingwire.

The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES

Why Uganda Should Strike a Balance Between Security and Liberty

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Uganda’s history has been characterized by gross violation of human rights. In the recent past, the increased narrowing of political space seen in the offing of unconstitutional legislations like the public order and management Act spirited towards limiting the freedoms of association and movement of key opposition figures and anti-government actors affirm that while this country signed and ratified many international treaties to uphold fundamental human rights, she has consistently chosen to abuse them with impunity.
It is highly imperative to note that since World War Two, a broad consensus grew around the importance of an international legal framework to protect human rights, within which states should operate. This ‘human rights framework’ protects a set of rights so fundamental that every person shares them (one of which is the right to assembly and demonstration) – and every state and non-state actor has an obligation to respect, protect and promote them. The obligation to respect these rights remains regardless of political persuasion of the government of the day, or the operating context – whether it a time of tranquility or international or civil war.
This concept of a set of human rights was first encapsulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, and was then translated into legal obligations through a series of international treaties for example the Geneva Conventions (1949), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR – 1966); thematic – Convention against Torture (CAT – 1984) with its Optional protocol, and also regional – European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR – 1950); American Convention on Human Rights (1969); African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (1981).
The development of this normative framework was also supported by the creation of legal structures at national, regional and international level to provide the possibility of redress for citizens whose rights, protected under these treaties, had been violated. They would also need to meet the test of providing clear processes for appeal, and redress of grievances where rights are found to have been violated.
There’s no doubt that Uganda ratified and signed most of if not all of these chatters and declarations as earlier pointed out. It is therefore not only appalling but also disgusting how the same state violets human rights it is supposed to protect and uphold by law.
The continued reprehensible treatment of activists and opposition kingpins by the Ugandan police all justified by a guarantee of security is simply dictatorial and undirected since the best way to preserve security is through respect of human rights. The closure of some media houses and continued intimidation and ill treatment of journalists can never be justified by any kind of argument either.

Whereas I believe that the preservation of national security is the first responsibility of any government it would be disgraceful to believe that the government of Uganda would achieve this through denying her citizens the inherent human rights and dignity. Therefore even when the stakes are raised, governments should never put a priority on the preservation of security and public order through curtailing rights that they would otherwise respect.
Arguing that police acts to protect the right to life of the populace, the most basic human right of all is an absurdity too since it is only when bullets and teargas canisters are unleashed that we lose lives.
Even when there is a long historical tradition of human rights and liberties coming under strain during periods when national security is threatened by democracies that are otherwise strongly committed to human rights and the rule of law especially in wartime or when facing other widespread security threats, the situation is different in Uganda.
In Colombia, President Alvaro Uribe (2002-2010) made substantial progress in putting down an insurgency led by the FARC militia group and was however criticized by human rights groups for a series of alleged violations, including the government’s tolerance of right-wing paramilitaries. In Sri Lanka, President Rajapaksa put down the insurgency of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, despite the global criticism he received for violations of human rights and the laws of armed conflict.
President Kagame in Rwanda has justified limits on human rights including freedom of speech and freedom of assembly as necessary to promote the healing of Rwandan society after the genocide of 1994. Despite the criticism the decisions taken by these leaders were necessary at a time.
Uganda’s situation however no close to what these leaders were faced with is. These demonstrations, assemblies and movements are not armed dangerous and pose no reasonable threat to security to guarantee denial of fundamental human rights.
To many of us however, human rights are important in themselves; we believe that it is a fundamental principle of political morality that all people should be treated with respect for their inherent dignity, even when this leads to a slight increase in the security risk that our country faces. Also respecting human rights is good for national security, for instance because it is less likely to lead to the radicalization of minority groups and pressure groups a case in Uganda today.
Lastly to those in power now and those that will come later need to struggle to strike a balance between security and liberty since their importance is equally the same. Just like Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”

CHRIS NKWATSIBWE
Human Rights activist

The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES

The State of Human Rights in Tanzania: Light or Plight?

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Before our weekend session on human rights starts in a few days, we would like to invite you to already start the discussion about the state of human rights in Tanzania on our blog. Press articles from different media and the “Tanzania Human Rights Report 2013” published by the Legal Human Rights Centre (LHRC) identify several areas where human rights violations repeatedly take place in Tanzania. The human rights abuses named by these reports include amongst others:

·    In 2013, at least eight police officers have been killed by angry civilians, while, on the other hand, 23 civilians were killed by  excessive use of force from security forces such as policemen, military personnel, wildlife reserve officers or local militias.

·     Mob violence is another pressing issue. Not only individuals who committed a crime, but oftentimes innocent persons become victims of this terrible form of “street justice”. The rising number of deaths caused by mob violence from 1234 in 2012 to 1669 in 2013 is alarming.

·     Furthermore, a shocking number of 765 persons were killed last year due to witchcraft belief. Yet, the reports claim that sometimes, the accusation of witchcraft is only used to foreshadow the true motives of a murder, such as the wish to access land or property of the attacked individual.

·       So far, the death penalty has not been banned from the Tanzanian Constitution, although the last hanging of a person took place in 1994. It is not clear yet, if the Constituent Assembly will decide to abolish capital punishment in the new constitutional draft.

·        Sadly, gender-based violence, including female genital mutilation, still takes place in Tanzania’s society.

What can be done to improve the protection of human rights in Tanzania? Is the constitution making process a chance for Tanzania, to better protect the rights of its people? The constitution will only provide effective protection if non-discrimination and equality are fundamental principles of the new draft and if minorities that are likely to be attacked or discriminated against are included in the constitution making process. Does the Constituent Assembly represent the diversity of the Tanzanian society? Are vulnerable persons being heard in the constitution making process?

What can be done to promote the rights of Tanzanian women? Can inequality and violence be eradicated by the constitution or do these problems have to be addressed socially and not legally?

Are “street justice”, mob violence and attacks against security personnel a consequence of the poor performance of the country’s security institutions or is this just an excuse of those who engage in violence?

Is the belief in witchcraft the result of poor education or is it simply part of Tanzania’s culture?

We are looking forward to hearing your opinions on these questions and other issues you consider to be important! 

Please read the following reports and articles for more details:

- The role of human rights in Katiba

- US faults EAC over human rights abuse

- Human rights reports by LHRC

How to deal with Boko Haram?

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“We must respond to those who feel they have a divine right to mess up our lives  says Nigerian Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka about our reaction towards Boko Haram. Dear World, your Hashtags won’tBringBackOurGirls“, argues Jumoke Balogun, co-founder and co-editor of compareafrique.com. Please, read two views on the same problem.

Does it help if Michele Obama expresses her solidarity from the White House and  foreign nations offer their help to the Nigerian army in another battle against terror? Is this well meaning empathy or a counterproductive intervention?

Last time we had #KONY2012, now it’s „BringBackOurGirls“. Raising awareness in Nigeria and all over the world? Or inviting the US-military to another part of Africa, as the Nigerian writer Teju Cole has twittered and warned?

How should the international  public respond to a phenomenon like Boko Haram is the first question we’d like you to discuss as part of this year’s Regional FES-Young Leaders Forum. As we’ve indicated in today’s roundmail to you, we would like to start using this blog for debating questions like this one posted by us, or others suggested by yourself. (please, send them to amon.petro@fes-tanzania.org).

Let’s try and start these debates now – and then hopefully act with consideration.