#Burundi under Armed Conflict Paradox: The UN Security Council Must Act Now – by Castro Pius Shirima

Note from Aikande: I am proud to post this blog entry written by Castro Shirima, my former  L.L.M (International Law with International Relations) student at Tumaini University-Makumira, Arusha. Castro is an excellent student and he is an Advocate and a District Magistrate in Arusha. Please read and comment…Thank you!

For a long time I used to ask myself “how and why states behave the way they do towards one another? For example, why nations continue with its normal business while in the neighbourhood there’s a bloodshed, massive violation and abuse of human rights and rule of law? or why would a state or a group of them propose to intervene into a certain domestic situation and not another?  I further asked myself what’s the role of International Law? Then I came across Realism with its explanatory power to these issues and its proponents such as Hans Morgenthau would agree with me that the role of law in global politics is:- 1) To facilitate rather than constrain; 2) To regulate rather than prevent and 3) To facilitate rather than control. These shortcomings of International Law are highlighted by the ongoing situation in Burundi.

Burundi has seen 40 years of armed violence and civil war since gaining independence from Belgium in 1962. The different analyses indicate that the conflicts, rooted in political and historical tensions between the ethnic Hutu majority and Tutsi minority populations, have killed more than 300,000 people.

Recently and still ongoing, we have witnessed (from April 2015) the conflict in Burundi developing from the move by President Nkurunziza to bid for a controversial third term, which won him disputed presidential vote on 26 June-that violated not only the country’s constitution but the Arusha peace accords that brought an end to the country’s last violent episode and keep the fragile peace.

According to Cameron Hudson of Simon-Sikjodt Centre for the Prevention of Genocide at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum: President Nkurunziza’s allies in the Burundian police, military and intelligence services have continued, violently, to strengthen their grip on power. The hunt to bring plotters and supporters of a short-lived May 2015 coup attempt to “justice” has begun, and the country is rife with fears that Burundian civilians could suffer mass atrocities as a consequence of the paranoia of the Nkurunziza regime. Meanwhile, events are happening, the collective security institution and actors are silent if not reluctantly responding by invoking the law-collective security law of course!

And for that reason I agree with Professor H. L. A. Hart (The Concept of Law 1961 OUP) that law is an instrument of state power and, its main function is to regulate and control. So I do to Hudson who argued that the U.S. and west at large predicted this situation but could not set aside enough funds to deter it. Although I agree resources are a conditional precedent in invoking a collective action but I could not agree with him that: …Were more flexible funds available other programmatic efforts could have been employed to more proactively defuse tensions and promote resiliency, for example: programs to actively counter hate speech and vile political rhetoric using new Internet and SMS… .

It does not click the mind that while we don’t have resources for responding to the situation in Burundi we had enough for Afghan in 2001, Iraq in 2003, Libya in 2011 and reserve for Syria. Some of us (save for my teacher!) have forgotten that neither the West nor the UN Security Council are interested to intervene the situation. To underscore this, it is imperative that we go back to Realism and remind ourselves of the core operative tenets of it…that is power, interest and security. Today, I was so much shocked to read from the news headlines that: ‘fighting intensifies in Burundi capital as government forces confront armed group’.

In case the government has confirmed that it has attacked an armed group then the situation is an armed conflict worthy of the attention of the law of armed conflict, international human rights law, international refugee law and collective security law. I am disappointed by the reluctance from governments to acknowledge that they are fighting an armed group in situations like this, which is why I used the phrase ‘in case’. Notwithstanding, these are the first attacks on military targets since the violence began at the fall of April, when President Nkurunziza announced that he would be running for a third term

Despite the confirmation of existence of armed situation, from the government, the parties to this conflict have at all times violated a number of obligations leading into massive abuse of rights and increased human sufferings to civilians-sparking unnecessary refugee crisis across the region. The neighbouring peaceful Tanzania bears the burden. I guess this is, perhaps, due to her open door policy to refugee situations!

In response to this, the EAC and AU-PSC embarked on diplomatic means and judicial approach but nothing seems feasible. My argument is: it is high time that the UN Security Council address the issue by invoking its collective security mandates under Chapter VI if not Chapter VII as the determination may be. For the purpose of comparison, I have written and argued somewhere else that ending the war in Syria was an opportunity lost in 2012 during heated debates in the UN Security Council Chamber (Will be posted in the appropriate time).

Every one of us is aware of how it is very difficult (as of now) to address the situation in Syria despite the ongoing airstrikes’ campaign. I argue that such a case will be to Burundi if the Security Council will continue to put its mandate to rest with regard to the situation in our neighboring Burundi!

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11 Responses

  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous at | | Reply

    This is a great reflection from you piuscasto

  2. lucy
    lucy at | | Reply

    I wish we have ten more people with great ideas like him and raise their voice to the world and make it understood then wonderful changes could happen

  3. John Simon
    John Simon at | | Reply

    I like the piece Castro. Its a critical perspective of thinking and analysis, only that a few minds can think so. people need to be enlightened more and more.Excellent work Pius Castro.

  4. Sangwani
    Sangwani at | | Reply

    This writing reflects a good perspective and draws attention to the flaws, and the much need and justification for intervention in this crisis. I enjoyed this body of work Castro

  5. Amate joseph
    Amate joseph at | | Reply

    Thise ideas reflects your hard work and skills on such matters. this also open our mind and we keep asking why UN is not taking any measurable actions towards the problem? may be your publish will contribute something towards embarking the existing problem in Burundi. Nice work Mr Castro

  6. Charles Baltazar
    Charles Baltazar at | | Reply

    This article is very concrete and proves the legit of Security Counsil in serious matters as this ones,that’s it sadly favors only where Super powers are highly interested on,sadly to say so but very true..Futhermore there is a room for the African Union to active intervene in matters like this to avoid future consequence as another genocide,civil wars or massacre of innocent civilians,and futhermost to get rid of the awaiting mindset of reaction from Western States to take actions first and while the most damage has been done…

  7. tarsila
    tarsila at | | Reply

    This is a master piece work Castro.
    Intervention from African Union is of utmost importance, instead of these states keep doing there businesses as nothing going on in Burundi, people are being killed everyday. It is high time African nations stop being selfish and act. They say charity begans at home, if we wait for Western countries to intervene, they will come when the damages are irreparable.

  8. Debora
    Debora at | | Reply

    Well thought Castro. A lot has to be done and must be done soon. A great piece of work. Keep it up

  9. JAMES KISINDA
    JAMES KISINDA at | | Reply

    This is excellent work Castro. Unbelievable good

  10. olesongoi
    olesongoi at | | Reply

    nice work Castro, keep it up

  11. Raymond Bombalirwa
    Raymond Bombalirwa at | | Reply

    Yes Sir, I have read your attached document well, that is good ideal and i expect a lot from you
    Thanks

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