Both the East African Community (EAC) and the African Union (AU) last week in Dar es Salaam sidestepped taking a hard decision on Burundi by failing to hand to President Pierre Nkurunziza the dictates of the 2005 Arusha Accords and the Burundian Constitution. These documents stipulate a two-term presidency of five years each as the mandatory extent a person would be allowed to rule.
They did not invoke this in the outcome of their deliberations. Instead both institutions advised that Nkurunziza postpone the polls meant to take place this June 26 for a period of at least six weeks; and to refer the matter of the political impasse in the country to the constitution.
Characteristically, Nkurunziza was not about to repeat the experience.
The East African leaders developed cold feet on ordering Nkurunziza to obey his own constitution, even though the majority of their countries are bearing the brunt of the Burundian political fallout from the incessant demonstrations the Opposition is ordering against Nkurunziza’s insistence to stand for a non-stipulated third term.
With the already refugee numbers hitting more than 200,000, Tanzania and Rwanda are the front to hose these fleeing people. More than 70,000 refugees have already fled to Tanzania, this at the time when that government had started organizing the return of the refugees that had been there since before the 2005 civil war in Burundi. This has rubbed Tanzania the wrong way influencing it to host the talks on the crisis that have already come to naught.
Rwanda is unequivocal on the situation: it has consistently requested that Nkurunziza implement the precepts of his constitution by standing down and organizing an election where he is not a contestant for the presidency since his two terms serving as president have expired. As a result most of the Opposition members who have fled Burundi have ended in Rwanda. These include the vice chairperson of its so-called independent electoral commission.
Uganda has already received about 2,000 refugees, most of them domiciled in the Nakivaale Refugee Camp. And the NRM regime has been partisan in the Burundi conflict, more because it has no moral authority to oppose Nkurunziza’s third term desires since Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, is going for what is presumed to be his sixth term. Kenya has been the most diplomatically adamant, repeating without conviction the dictates of the Burundian Constitution.
The outcome of the recent EAC Dar es Salaam summit basically underscored this position: that the matter of the third tern be referred to the constitution and that the elections be postponed to lead to a dialogue on the matter.
This is music to Nkurunsiza’s ears. In fact, duly, his government has accepted the precepts of the conference. In the first case he will simply ignore the outcome of the summit, in part because there is no way of implementing the mere request. Also, Nkurunziza has sent most of the Opposition packing into exile, if he has not already killed or jailed some of its leaders. In effect there would be nobody substantial to negotiate with.
That only leaves the grassroots demonstrators who he will deal with the bullets and tear gas.
Already, more than 30 demonstrators have been killed and scores of them sent to prison.
Neither the EAC nor the AU raised up the issue of the refugees, nor the effect of Nkurunziza’s intransigence on the issue of the third term. This is a tacit acceptance to him that he can ride roughshod on any agreements that have already been entered into.
This is typical of African leadership and their continental or regional institutions. Nowhere in the Continent has Africa been decided about following the democratic institutions that they shout loudly about. The moment the African leaders get to power and get drunk with it, the African leadership gropes with it to the consternation of the masses that are left to suffer the humiliating megalomania.