UNITED NATIONS, December 23 — After Burundi’s Assembly and spokespeople for president Pierre Nkurunziza flatly rejected the African Union’s planned deployment of up to 5,000 peacekeepers, Inner City Press on December 21 asked US Ambassador Samantha Power about it. Video here.
Power said “we hope that’s not their final answer,” adding that the mediation by Ugandan president Museveni cannot just involve people who tell the government what they want to hear. Video and transcript below.
On December 23, seeing a Burundi flag and signs across First Avenue from the UN Inner City Press ran out there and conducted interviews, video here, in English and (halting) French. Others spokes in Swahili and Kirundi. At least 87 killed in one day, one sign said. The UN’s response to date was described as weak. But what will happen next?
On December 22, after the UN again asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson for Ban’s view — still UNclear — the US State Department said, “We would strongly prefer that the government in Burundi welcome the AU mission on the timeline set out. We defer to the African Union on the next steps. We offer our full support to the AU government. We have urged Burundi to accept the AU mission. We will continue to support the deployment of these troops to protect civilians and to allow space for the internationally mediated dialogue to find a sustainable political solution to this crisis. We remain gravely concerned with the situation on the ground.”
I do want to draw your attention to the mediation, because fundamentally any protection or prevention presence is dealing with the systems and not the root causes, and the mediation has to get at root causes. It has been – too much time has passed without the Burundian government engaging the opposition, and we understand from President Museveni that he is now very eager to get going toward the end of this month. But the terms of that mediation are also very important. And I draw your attention to both the African Union’s discussion of what that mediation should look like and the Council’s statement from over the weekend, because it is very clear that this has to be a negotiation between the government and a representative sampling, an inclusive sampling of the opposition – not simply handpicked individuals who are there to tell the government what it wants to hear. So progress needs to be made on that in parallel with determining what an international presence in Burundi should and would look like.
Meanwhile the Nkurunziza government with the agreement of UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous has undertaken to deploy officers allegedly involved in human rights abuses into Ladsous’ Central African Republic mission, MINUSCA.
By Matthew Russell Lee