Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘African Union’

Bringing Burundi Back from the Brink

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 28th December, 2015

Museveni NkurunzizaToday, here in Entebbe, Uganda, the first round of peace talks aimed at averting mayhem in the central African state of Burundi are scheduled to begin. Given the way that things have deteriorated so rapidly over the past few weeks, especially in the Burundian capital Bujumbura, where dozens of bodies have turned up on the streets, it might have been useful to have convened the talks earlier, but the man charged with overseeing them, Uganda’s President, Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power for 30 years, has been busy campaigning for re-election. The crisis erupted in Burundi this April when incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza announced that he was not stepping down at the end of his constitutional second term, but would instead stand for re-election. There was an attempted coup by a group of military officers against the government the following month that failed, and Mr Nkurunziza was duly re-elected in a poll boycotted by much of the opposition.

Burundi 2A few days ago, the African Union announced that it was preparing a peace-keeping force of 5,000 troops to send to Burundi to prevent more bloodshed. But President Nkurunziza declared firmly that they would not be welcome. Hence the added importance and urgency of the talks here in Entebbe, for which representatives of different Burundian parties have been arriving. The challenge for reaching an accord is enormous as there is a central disagreement: the President’s opponents are demanding that he step down, while he and his supporters are insisting that he will stay. Next year is the 10th anniversary of the peace accord that brought an end to 12 years of civil war in Burundi, in which an estimated 300,000 people were killed. And large numbers of Burundians fear that the country is once again on the brink of such a devastating conflict. At least 200,000 refugees have fled the country, many to neighbouring Rwanda. Unconfirmed reports meanwhile suggest that in Rwanda, some Burundian exiles are preparing to return to their homeland to fight if the opportunity arises.

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Burundi: R2P in Action?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 19th December, 2015

R2PThe African Union, moving with uncharacteristic speed, has decided to send 5,000 peace-keeping troops to Burundi, even though the government there has not asked for them. This is a legitimate move under an evolving concept in international law: the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), which basically argues that the international community has a moral duty to intervene in a country if there is a danger of genocide or other grave humanitarian crisis and the government on the spot either can’t or won’t solve the problem itself. Accordingly, R2P challenges a fundamental principle of the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, namely that the ruler or government of a nation state has the sole authority for managing its affairs. Some countries, such as China, still cherish the notion of non-interference in the internal affairs of another state, not least because of foreign criticism of its policies in Tibet, but in a case like Burundi there is unlikely to be much protest at any peace-keeping action. This is because of the awful precedent of Rwanda, where I am now.

Burundi 1In 1994 one of the worst genocides in history took place as predominantly Tutsi Rwandans were slaughtered or maimed with machetes and other weapons by a militia force with the encouragement of some people in power and, shamefully, even some Christian priests. The international community stood by — some UN troops were even withdrawn, sealing the fate of thousands — until France decided that something must be done to halt the carnage. It was largely because of the Rwanda genocide that the idea of R2P was formulated. As it has evolved, the assumption is that military intervention should only take place when it is clear that diplomatic and other pressures or measures will not work. Moreover, rather that the United Nations itself being expected to act as a global policeman, regional organisations are encouraged to be the prime movers. So the African Union’s initiative will be widely welcomed. There is no doubt that the matter is urgent; scores of bodies have been found in the streets of the capital Bujumbura and hundreds of thousands of Burundians have fled into neighbouring  countries. Although at the moment the conflict is not overtly ethnic it could so easily become so, as it was in Rwanda, and then the true nightmare would begin.

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The Bell Tolls for Dictators

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 22nd August, 2011

Like many bloggers and tweeters I stayed up late last night, transfixed by the scenes in Tripoli, where the National Liberation Army (as I prefer to call it) penetrated neighbourhoods of the city, including the iconic Green Square, which was immediately renamed Martyrs’ Square. At least two of Mouammar Gaddafi’s sons have been captured and it can only be a matter of time before Gaddafi himself is cornered. Will he do a Hitler and shoot himself, or arrange things so that he gets killed? Or will the cause of justice be served by him and some of his closest associates being taken to the International Criminal Court (ICC)? It’s staggering to think how fast events have moved since the impoverished Tunisian fruit-vendor Mohamed Bouazizi immolated himself last December. The Tunisian President Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia, Egypt’s President Mubarak was forced to resign and is now on trial, Yemen’s President Saleh was seriously injured in clashes during the uprising to oust him and remains in hospital in Saudi Arabia — which has a reputation now as the retirement home for dictators, beginning with Uganda’s Idi Amin. And now Gaddafi’s day of judgement is nigh. To remind ourselves of the speed and significance of these events, just take a look at the photo here of the four dictators looking so pleased with themselves at an African Union Summit last year. And next? Syria, inshallah.

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Can Africa Solve Its Ills?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 31st May, 2008

Last night I took part in a live discussion on Voice of Africa Radio (VOAR) on solving the crisis in African development. Fifty years after Ghana led to way to independence, most of Africa remains firmly stuck developmentally, compared with a growing number of Asian and Latin American countries that are enjoying varying degrees of economic lift-off. Apparently last week the station hosted a programme outlining the problems affecting the continent, so this week, my two fellow panelists and I were meant to come up with solutions. I won’t be so arrogant as to claim that we did, but at least we highlighted possible ways forward.

I stressed the need to think positive: to spend less time blaming the colonial powers for the past (even if much of the blame is justified) and to focus on building the future. I was pleased to see that on Africa Day (25 May), the Chairman of the African Union, the Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, took a similarly forward-looking stance in his message to Africans and Friends of Africa. Africa is a rich continent, not a poor one, with an abundance of minerals and land and other resources, including a youthful population (in spite of the ravages of AIDS). The potential is huge if African states work together, tackle coruption in those countries where it is still a big problem, and reverse the outflow of capital.

As President Kikwete said, Africa is being particularly hard-hit by the rise in food and fuel prices (the latter despite the fact that there are a growing number of oil producers along the west coast). More needs to be done to boost Africa’s food production, which was badly hit by being undercut by subsidised foreign food imports. The European Union has an important role to play in opening up its markets more to African produce. But there wll only be significant amounts of inward investment when countries show that they are well-governed. One of my fellow panelists, from West Africa himself, argued that presidential terms should be limited to two. Looking at the example of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe — who seemed to be such a good thing when I was in Harare in 1980, but is now a callous monster — I could only concur!

Link: www.voiceofafricaradio.com

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