Burundi: The African Union Must Catch Up Quickly!

La version en Français ici: wp.me/p4ywYV-4J

The situation in Burundi is becoming more and more serious. Police is firing live ammunitions at protesters; armed militias are terrorizing citizens. 24,000 people have already fled the country, including mayors of some areas … At least 12 people have died dozens were seriously injured and over 600 arrested and detained in inhumane conditions…

Yesterday, the Vice President of the Constitutional Court of Burundi Sylvère Nimpagaritse denounced pressures and death threats on his person during the assessment of the constitutionality of 3rd term of the incumbent president. He then fled the country. During deliberations of the Court, while 4 out of 7 members thought the 3rd mandate is unconstitutional, the court deferred its decision. Thus, the death threats started by the government … It is now clear that this court is no more credible and none shall consider its decisions.

The African Union Must Catch up

In its communiqué of 28 April 2015, The Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union has merely ” took note that the Burundian Senate has seized the Constitutional Court on the interpretation of the Constitution regarding the eligibility of President Pierre Nkurunziza’s candidature for re-election and urged all Burundian stakeholders to respect the decision of the Constitution”. The Chairperson of the AU Commission took the same position on her Twitter account a few days before… I had already found this position as weak and ineffective in view of the gravity of the situation on the ground, being aware of the strong influence of the political authorities on the State institutions. Limiting the solution of the Burundian problem to the decision of the current Constitutional Court is simply paving the way for a constitutional coup by the current authorities.  Everyone knows about this practice in many countries in our continent.

Given the gravity of the situation in Burundi, it is no longer enough to just ask the “stakeholders to respect the constitution and the Arusha Agreements.” The African Union must be clear and state that a 3rd term is purely against the constitution and the spirit of the Arusha Agreement.

I believe that the African Union has a certain influence on Burundi. In the past, the AU has led with success a peacekeeping operation in Burundi. The AU has invested its troops and resources in Burundi. Today, the African Union must avoid hesitation and be categorical. We can no more allow a new civil war in Burundi. Our continent has no mean to handle it. We already have too many problems to solve; too many challenges to face. The last civil war in Burundi killed 250,000 people.

Now that the Constitutional Court has no more credibility, the African Union and the PSC must seek advice of their legal bodies on the constitutionality of the 3rd term in Burundi in order to fix this issue once and for good. It is a historic responsibility. Yesterday our continental body missed similar opportunity in Burkina Faso until citizens ousted their dictator. Today a new opportunity shows up for the African Union to join the rest of the world and isolate President Nkurunziza.

The risk of a military coup in Burundi is very high right now. We should not get there. Africa must stop projecting the image of a continent with brutal methods. Political isolation of President Nkurunziza by the African Union will certainly force him to pull back…

The Peace and Security Council must meet urgently to denounce the interference of the Burundian authorities in the functioning of the Constitutional Court, dissociate itself from any decision of a court being ordered by the political power and declare the 3rd term unconstitutional and against the Arusha Agreements.

Note: My opinions are absolutely personal and do not commit my organization