Museveni back in Burundi to resuscitate his 15-year old fruit, but does he still have the ‘juice’ to do so?

President of Uganda, and the new facilitator in Burundi talks Yoweri Museveni (C) trying to water and save his fruit

President of Uganda, and the new facilitator in Burundi talks Yoweri Museveni (C) trying to water and save his fruit

The Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was in the Burundian capital Bujumbura Tuesday, not in a usual visit, but as facilitator in the current “electoral” crisis that broke out on April 26 2015, a day after the incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza was announced as flag bearer of the ruling CNDD-FDD.

In the wake of Nkurunziza’s announcement, the opposition, civil society rallied in what they had billed “Arusha Movement” against his controversial, alleging that it is contrary to the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, and the constitution, both limiting the head of state to two presidential terms.

Since then, daily violent protests have rocked Bujumbura and other localities outside the capital.

Burundians, young and old, rich and poor have taken to the streets to demonstrate their detest for the President’s controversial candidacy.

Clashes between protesters and security forces determined to defend President Nkurunziza have claimed nearly 100 lives, including police officers, while around about 150,000 Burundians have fled neighboring countries like Tanzania, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

After several weeks of unrest, police has managed to quell the protests, but tension still remains high between supporters of president Nkurunziza and anti-3rd term militants who have become subject to a severe manhunt by police and Burundi National Intelligence Agency.

Currently, it’s rare to spend a night without a grenade explosion or gun fire, as civilian deaths are registered almost on a daily basis.

Meanwhile, the government and the ruling party, the National Council for Defense of Democracy-Forces for Defense of Democracy (CNDD), remain determined to strongly defend Nkurunziza’s candidacy.

The governing party has also downplayed protests arguing Nkurunziza’s third term move does not break any provision in the current constitution.

In the run up to the just concluded communal and legislative polls, several voices came up urging for dialogue between the government, the ruling party and its allies on one side, and opposition, and anti-third term campaigners, and civil society on the other.

The calls for dialogue have beseeched parties to agree upon a consensual electoral calendar and set up a conducive environment that would enable a free and fair electoral process. However, all those voices have all been unsuccessful so far.

Postponements after postponements of elections have not resolved the crisis as the government seems less willing to sit down with its opponents to tackle the critical issues of electoral calendar and the root cause of the crisis; President Nkurunziza’s third term bid.

EMBATTLED: President Pierre Nkurunziza

EMBATTLED: President Pierre Nkurunziza

Amidst intransigence on both sides, Burundi organized parliamentary and communal elections on June 29, boycotted by the opposition. And it is due to hold presidential polls July 21, still without the opposition onboard.

As many analysts see Burundi on the brink of another civil war, all mediation efforts have come to nothing until now.

Saïd Djinnit, the first UN Envoy sent to Burundi in May to facilitate talks between the conflicting sides has been rejected by the opposition, accusing him of sympathizing with the government. He resigned in June.

Shortly after his departure, Abdoulaye Bathily, the second UN Envoy and mediator replacing Djinnit was rejected by the ruling party and the government, accusing him of disrespect of the country’s sovereignty.

Now, the sub-region has decided to take things in its own hands. On July 6, the East African Heads of States Summit in Dar es Salaam, attended by only two out of five leaders; Tanzanian leader Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni appointed the latter to facilitate Burundi talks.

For starters, when the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement was signed in 2000, President Yoweri Museveni was the Chairman of the Regional Peace Initiative on Burundi.

He managed to persuade the Buyoya-led government and rebel movements at that time to sign the agreement reached after two years of talks between two sides divided along ethnic lines: G10 constituted of Tutsi-dominated parties and G7 constituted of Hutu parties.

At that time, the Burundi crisis was understood to be ethnically motivated, whereby the Tutsi dominated army and Hutu dominated rebel groups.

It is such ethnic animus that led the civil in 1993 after the assassination of the first democratically elected president Melchior Ndadaye, the first Hutu president in Burundi’s history.

The current crisis erupted over misinterpretation of the outcome of the Museveni-chaired initiative; the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, which ended a decade of civil war and is considered the cornerstone of the relative calm and stability that Burundi has been enjoying for about 10 years.

Museveni is back again to Burundi’s rescue yet again, but will he succeed where UN’s Djiniit and Bathily have failed?

Will Yoweri Museveni manage to water and protect the fruit of his August 28, 2000 initiative or will the fruit continue to dry up and die? 

Can an ‘arsonist’ investigate or put out a fire?

The government in Bujumbura and CNDD-FDD have fully embraced Museveni but the opposition is still cagey, rightly so.

The opposition are reluctant to trust a guy who is in many like the one they are up against.

Frederic Bamvuginyumvira, the Vice-president of FRODEBU, an opposition party said recently he is not optimistic Museveni will make headway in the talks.

“The core cause of the current crisis in Burundi is about the third term bid of President Pierre Nkurunziza. Museveni has been ruling Uganda for 29 years now. How can he advise him to withdraw his bid?” he wondered.

Be it in Burundi, Rwanda or the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Museveni has been a great influence as far as third (and fourth, fifth…….. term politics is concerned, he is the master or mastermind of third term. He loathes constitutional term limits he once championed.

However, in his initial discussions with the stakeholders in the Burundi conflict, Museveni Tuesday urged them to love one another and think of going forward instead of thinking about returning to war.

Now, will the opposition turn a blind eye to Museveni third, fourth, and fifth term love and embrace him? And is he the right man to help resolve the conflict? And like his predecessors, if he fails, who comes or what happens next? Let’s watch and wait