World View: Burundi’s Pierre Nkurunziza Follows Syria’s Bashar al-Assad on Path to Genocide

Burundi has been in turmoil since April 2015, when President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to run for a third term, which he went on to win in July

This morning’s key headlines from

  • UN report on Burundi documents massive human rights violations
  • Burundi lawmakers vote to leave the International Criminal Court (ICC)

UN report on Burundi documents massive human rights violations

Burning barricades in Bujumbura, Burundi's capital city, last year (UN)
Burning barricades in Bujumbura, Burundi’s capital city, last year (UN)

A United Nations reports on Burundi has documented human rights violations on a wide, systemic, massive scale by the government of president Pierre Nkurunziza.

The hundreds of documented violations include torture, sexual violence, arbitrary jailings, targeted assassinations and summary executions. The targets of this massive violence were mostly political opponents who opposed Nkurunziza’s third term as president, in apparent violation of the constitution, which limits presidents to two terms. Nkurunziza claimed that his first term doesn’t count because he was appointed by the parliament, rather than being directly elected.

Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term in April of last year triggered street protests by young people. Nkurunziza’s security forces confronted the peaceful protests with bullets, tear gas and water cannon, killing about ten people in four days of violence.

Burundi’s last generational crisis war was the 1994 Rwanda genocide, which also involved Burundi, in which ethnic Hutus killed some 800,000 ethnic Tutsis in three months. Burundi is now in a generational Awakening era, and is following the pattern where the first generation to grow up after the war are now staging protests. Nkurunziza is an ethnic Hutu, and his massive torture and violence is targeting Tutsis.

During America’s last generational Awakening era, in the 1960s when the first post-World War II generation came of age, there were student protests, but the government did not resort to torture, sexual violence, arbitrary jailings, targeted assassinations and summary executions to counter them. So, there is a wide spectrum of behaviors that a government can exhibit during the Awakening era that follows the end of a generational crisis war by about 15-20 years.

Syria is also in a generational Awakening era, and Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad is on the most violent end of the spectrum. The Syrian civil war pitted Shia/Alawites against Sunni Muslims, and climaxed in 1982. Today, the Shia/Alawite al-Assad is targeting millions innocent Sunni women and children with barrel bombs, chemical weapons (chlorine gas), phosphorous bombs, cluster bombs and bunker bombs.

We’ve described a similar pattern, including Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka. The pattern is this: There is a bloody generational crisis civil war between two ethnic groups. The civil war is so horrific that the survivors vow that it will never happen again. The first generation growing up after the civil war, and with no personal memory of its horrors, begins peacefully protesting. The country leader, often from ethnic group that “won” the civil war, stays in power and resists peaceful protesters with violence, using the excuse that he wants to prevent another ethnic civil war.

Since the initial violence in Burundi began in April of last year, the violence has continued to worse. More than 500 people have died from extrajudicial killings, and at least 270,000 people have fled the country to Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and DRC. United Nations Human Rights and IRIN (United Nations) and All Africa

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Burundi lawmakers vote to leave the International Criminal Court (ICC)

The recent United Nations report accusing the Burundi regime of Pierre Nkurunziza of massive human rights violations has infuriated regime officials, and caused them to take several steps to isolate themselves and protect themselves from retribution for the human rights violations.

For a while last year, the African Union was discussing the possibility of sending in peacekeeping troops to protect civilians from violence, but that had to be abandoned when Nkurunziza said that the AU peacekeepers would be treated as an invading army. (Some analysts responded to this failure by calling it the “African disunion.” Similarly, the UN failure to stop the genocide is Syria is sometimes called the “Disunited Nations.”)

Last week, Nkurunziza barred three United Nations human rights experts from entering the country and declared them persona non grata. The three had been associated with the United Nations report.

Now on Wednesday, Burundi’s legislature has voted to leave the International Criminal Court (ICC). One Burundi lawmaker said that “The ICC is a tool being used to try and change power,” making the same sort of excuse that Syria’s Bashar al-Assad uses when criticized for his war crimes. Burundi officials have expressed fear that they will be charged with crimes against humanity. They would be the first country ever to withdraw from the ICC.

The withdrawal from the ICC will take effect one year after the government formally notifies the United Nation of its intention. In the meantime, some politicians are asking the ICC to speed up the ongoing preliminary examination and bring charges within a year.

The violence in Burundi has not yet reached the full-scale genocidal slaughter that we’re seeing from the al-Assad regime in Syria, but it’s pretty clear that the Nkurunziza regime in Burundi is headed in the same direction. AFP and International Business Times and African Arguments

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KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza, Syria, Bashar al-Assad, International Criminal Court, ICC, Rwanda, Hutus, Tutsis, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Uganda
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