BURUNDI: Should We Just Let Them Kill Each Other?

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As a result of the never ending cycle of conflict and violence across the globe, many have given up on diplomacy as a pathway towards conflict resolution. What has emerged is the reluctance to act and letting nature take its course.

This isolationism doctrine if necessary will tolerate bloodshed in other territories as a path towards long term stability whenever a handshake can’t deliver the goods.  

The debate involving strategies to solve the Burundi puzzle has been lively with the African Union pushing for intervention and some pundits like Andrew Mwenda managing editor of ‘The Independent’ proposing a non-interventionist approach as a viable alternative.

This sentiment is shared by the Burundi government which is resisting the deployment of African Union (AU) forces to safeguard the civilian population. 

Mwenda argues that “the best way to help Burundi is to let Burundians fight until one side secures a decisive military victory.”  In other words Africa and the international community should just sit back and watch the Burundi government slaughter civilians.

Mwenda further questions the motive and end goal of Burundi’s neighbors intervening in the current conflict. “What would be the objective of Rwanda’s intervention, what would success imply and what would be the exit strategy?”

Mwenda is correct in asserting that the motive of nation states during intervention is often rooted in national interests and not humanitarianism. In other words Uganda, Rwanda or Tanzania will primarily send troops to intervene in Burundi if there is something in it for them.

Mwenda recites the “act-consequentialism paradigm” that the citizens of Burundi and their leaders have the responsibility of the affairs in their state and by leaving them alone, this act in the long term will prove morally right by resulting into the most effective path towards sustainable peace irrespective of the civilian casualties.

There is a case to be made from this camp since intervention solely rooted in national interests leads to “selectivity of response”. There many conflicts across the globe but the “humanitarian intervention” machine often seems concerned about saving certain lives more than others.

The failure for humanitarian interventionists to explain why not all lives are equal empowers the views of non-interventionists.

The gist of Mwenda’s argument is to challenge the motive and outcome of the occupying forces. Intervention and immediate withdrawal of troops is certainly not effective and as a result humanitarian intervention must involve a nation building component after eliminating the human rights threat facing the people.

This reality is what threatens the government of Burundi and as a result rejecting African Union boots on the ground. The presence of outside forces has the potential to empower the civilians and as a result threaten the survival of the regime itself.  

In spite of the arguments raised by the non-interventionists, allowing blood to soak the soils of Burundi for the sake of proving which faction is dominant is a misguided and simplistic approach towards conflict resolution with geopolitical and societal ramifications.

Let them fight has resulted in millions of refugees and mass casualties on the continent of Africa including thousands of bodies that were fished out of Lake Victoria as they floated upstream River Nile during the Rwanda genocide. 

There is no precedent that African nations have learnt any lessons from years of turmoil. Tragedy in Africa is often not rooted in hatred among the populace but rather power hungry leaders who stir up social unrest to consolidate power.

The fact that there will always be power hungry leaders implies that letting two sets of political rivals fight it out will not guarantee permanent stability. There will always be more bloodshed when another ambitious leader fancies the throne.

Mwenda engages in speculation rather than reality by asserting that bloodshed will lead to governable nations. The few decades of stability in Uganda and Rwanda do not paint a complete political picture of the fate of these nations in the post-Museveni and Kagame era.

African nations have for long been classic bystander states primarily due to majority of leaders having blood on their hands. The same scenario is at play in Burundi since President Nkurunziza’s appetite for power is as insatiable as Museveni, Kagame, Mugabe and numerous leaders on the continent.

Africa’s fraternity of leaders that made omelet by breaking some eggs have trouble coming to terms with saving Burundi’s eggs. This sobering reality galvanises future perpetrators of crimes against humanity that they too can get away without consequences. A strong case can be made that we have in fact already tested the non-interventionist approach and it has failed us miserably.

Humanitarian intervention through the African Union can create zero tolerance and also act as a deterrent to would be perpetrator regimes. Under the Flag of the AU, this institution could help minimize the national interest driven approach that could cloud the motive of individual state actors.  

The recent move by the AU to authorise sending 5000 peacekeeping forces to Burundi with or without consent of the Burundi government is unprecedented.

If implemented effectively, this will send a strong message that it’s unacceptable for regimes resorting to violence as a means to maintain power while flying the umbrella of national sovereignty.

The outcomes of any humanitarian intervention are determined by the lives that are saved. Burundian lives need to be saved. “Never Again” should mean “Never Again”

Dr. Daniel Kawuma (Pharm. D) is a Pharmacist currently practicing in the United States. Born and raised in Uganda, Daniel attended Kings College Budo (Uganda), Red Cross Nordic United World College (Norway), Macalester College (U.S) and the University of Minnesota. He is a strong advocate for nurturing the ideals of internationalism & multiculturalism as a bridge towards global peace in addition to sowing the seeds of community service through volunteering and selfless leadership. Daniel is passionate about politics, education reform, poverty reduction, human rights and research on healthcare policy in Africa.
Contact: Twitter: @kawumaWebsite: http://kawumainc.blogspot.com/

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