President Nkurunziza & Co. ought to draw lessons from Rwanda and stop the senseless killings

For President Pierre Nkurunziza, the man whose decision to run for the third triggered the current turmoil, business goes on as usual, here he is launching "The Tea Week" in Burundi last month.

For President Pierre Nkurunziza, the man whose decision to run for the third triggered the current turmoil, business goes on as usual, here he is launching “The Tea Week” in Burundi last month.

Oprah Winfrey, a renowned American entertainer and media presenter once urged her audience to: “Turn wounds into wisdom” if their ambitions; collective or personal were to be achieved.

Oprah’s witty observation accurately reflects Rwanda’s post-colonial era misrules and the country’s current ratings on governance and economic competitiveness globally.

Like the recurrent conflict between Burundi’s egoistic politicians killing hundreds of vulnerable citizens and making hundreds of thousands refugees, Rwanda’s post-colonial governments masterminded a perceived ethnic hatred among majority Hutus against minority Tutsi compatriots to propel their selfish political ambitions.

Subsequently, an ethnic civil war broke up between 1959-1962 killing hundreds of innocent Tutsis in cold blood and persecuting hundreds of thousands who later sought refuge in neighbouring Uganda, Zaire (now DRC), Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya and overseas.

Yet a visionary internal administration of the new sovereign state remained lacking between the successive regimes under Gregory Kayibanda and Gen. Juvenal Habyarimana while the Tutsi citizens who had sought refuge were made stateless forever.

All these governance misgivings are the genesis of the Rwanda Patriotic Army/Front (RPA/F) comprising a generation of citizens who had been refugees for more than three decades and government critics who craved better leadership, launching an armed rebellion in 1990 as last resort.

Realising that the ragtag RPA outfit had gained strength day-by-day, capturing a huge chunk of the country’s territory plus the internal pressure the opposition political parties had mounted, the Habyarimana’s regime opted for power-sharing mediation in Arusha, Tanzania- a cornerstone deal that was sealed in April 1994.

Unfortunately, the Hutu extremists and power-greedy ideologues in the ruling MRND opposed to power-sharing agenda detailed in the accord, turned their frustrations on to incumbent President Juvenal Habyarimana and his entourage en-route from signing the deal, firing down the presidential jet with missiles on April 6 1994 at the Presidential palace backyard.

Their desired outcome from the assassination of a legitimate Head of State was to implement the earlier planned genocide against the Tutsi section of the population, resolve grievances of Hutus in the opposition parties and cling on power.

The genocide mayhem claimed over 800.000 innocent citizens in just 100 days for being born Tutsi or their Hutu sympathizers, while the international community, including UNAMIR peacekeeping troops that indifferently looked on.

Against the backdrop of such successive misrules, mass killings, international community’s neglect, statelessness, poverty, malnutrition… to mention but a few, Rwandans of all walks of life have learnt bitter lessons. And they have practically gained from reviewing their dark history in the last two decades.

For purposes of relevancy and comparison, I am referring to the Rwanda’s horrific event of 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis, because there are similarities and contraries with the now chronic Burundian civil war. Both share similar ethnic composition of Majority Hutu, minority Tutsi and Batwa and gained sovereignty from Belgian UN mandate in 1962.

The tiny densely populated Rwanda has since the genocide mayhem, repeatedly emerged among best in the world on governance, anti-corrupt stance and on doing business ratings.

Of recent, the United Nations’ Human Development Report 2015 rated her as one of the most progressive countries in the world; where Singapore, China, Iran, Rwanda, Mozambique, topped the list.

So, why is Burundi sliding into repeated chaos over time, killing innocent civilians in droves? It is really both sickening and horrifying that the Burundian political actors are indifferent to restoring the situation to normalcy. They ought to have learned pragmatic, practical lessons from Rwanda’s case study.

The bottom-line is: neither the proposed 5000 AU’s peacekeeping contingent nor the external partners including peace negotiation mediators will give the permanent solution to the chronic civil wars, unless President Pierre Nkurunziza and his antagonists replicate Rwandans’ political will, determination and strategies necessary for the common good of ordinary citizens.

The ten years of peace Burundians have enjoyed with President Nkurunziza at the helm came about because iconic personalities like former Presidents late Nelson Mandela and Late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere presided over peace negotiations that concluded the Arusha Peace Accord.

The duo commanded invaluable respect and moral authority globally, for they were characters who practiced what they were preaching to Burundian warring parties. They had suffered for peoples’ common good, shown decent leadership and never tampered with national constitutions to hold on to the presidency.

In fact this reminds me why Nkurunziza shunned President Museveni’s appeal as mediator to reconsider the controversial third term bid and went ahead to win the sham presidential elections last July that culminated into the chaos we are witnessing.

Nkurunziza was thinking like: ‘You have been Uganda’s President for 30 years and still seeking a fifth term. You deleted term limits from the national constitution and that of NRM party to remain on the throne.

‘I have served just two five year terms as Burundi’s President. Do you have the moral authority to admonish me?
And this makes the author reserved on whether the resumed peace talks under Museveni’s supervision will be as fruitful as those previously under late Nelson Mandela.

Meanwhile, given the fact that the death toll is increasing day by day, the Burundians have no luxury of waiting until the on-and-off ‘peace jokes’ yield results. The African Union with the blessing of the UN Security Council MUST act before the worse comes to the worst, Burundi government’s lack of consent notwithstanding.

The consent of the receiving country is premised on her ability and political will to protect civilians from violence in accordance with international law instruments.

If I may quote former US President Ronald Reagan: “Peace is not absence of conflict; it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” Isn’t such the venue through which President Nkurunziza ascended to the throne, halting 12-year civil war which claimed 300,000 civilians and the country’s first democratically elected President Melchior Ndadaye after mere 90 days in office?