AP Photo/Gildas Ngingo
On October first the European Union announced that it was imposing sanctions on four officials close to Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza. The EU executed a travel ban and asset freeze on the four for allegedly blocking peaceful attempts meant to help resolve the country’s nearly six-month-long conflict.
The sanctions stimulated a massively furious response from the ruling part CNDD-FDD of President Pierre Nkurunziza.
A statement made by the ruling party on 5 October said, “The EU’s decision to take judicial sanctions against some Burundians is illegal and a provocation.” Continuing, to say that the “Sanctions were taken against four Burundian Hutus,” and that the party was “deeply shocked to hear about its sanctions that only too well remind [us of] the sad story that Burundi experienced, punctuated by bloody events for over 40 years”.
“The sanctions… imposed by the EU on Burundians of one ethnic group are likely to undermine dialogue [with the opposition] before it has even begun,” the statement said, accusing the EU of furthering divisions between ethnic ties in Burundi.
The CNDD-FDD argues that the EU should, instead of targeting state officials, be prosecuting the leaders of the coup who have taken shelter in some European Union member states or they ought to be repatriated so that they may be tried in Burundi.
The army has also been facing recent divisions along ethnic lines. One of Burundi’s human rights activists who still remains in the country, Anschaire Nikoyagize, president of the Burundian League for Human Rights told IRIN “it’s obvious that there are divisions within the army, as evidenced by ongoing defections or desertions of serving soldiers.”
The military about a decade ago, after the peace accords stipulated at the end of the war that they must integrate former Hutu rebel into the Tutsi-dominated army in order to form a more ethnically equalised armed force, did do just that. However, it looks like today these divisions are becoming more and more prominent and the army is losing its grip on stability.
IRIN interviewed about a dozen Burundians, including analysts and members of the military, who confirmed that former Hutu rebels have formed a campaign, which includes abducting, harassing, detaining and even in some cases murdering members of the army’s old guard. Not stopping there, they have attacked those they believe to be opposed to President Pierre Nkurunziza, who IRIN report is a former rebel leader himself.
The decision, which threw the country into violent chaos, was taken by the President Nkurunziza when he announced he was running for what critics have called an unconstitutional third term. It is the biggest crisis the country has seen since the ethnically motivated civil war, which ended in 2005. The constitution of Burundi states that a president may only serve two terms. However, President Nkurunziza’s party claimed he was eligible to run for another term as a popularly elected president due to the fact that for his first term lawmakers elected him.
On August 20 Nkurunziza was officially sworn into parliament after winning 69.41 per cent of the vote. However, the United Nations observer mission stated that the vote was not “inclusive, free and credible” and was conducted “in an environment of profound mistrust” among political rivals.
Many of those in the opposition parties have fled to neighbouring countries and Europe, seeking refuge from arrest warrants issued by Nkurunziza’s government that claims they organised the violence in the country.
It looks likely that the violence and chaos in the country is, unfortunately, set to continue as mediation talks do not seem likely especially after the failed attempt, which took place in July and was conducted by Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni.
Thierry Vircoulon, the Central Africa director for the International Crisis Group, told The EastAfrican: “The general sentiments are that no one [opposition] would want to be part of talks solely organised by President Nkurunziza.”