Coalition for Reforms and Democracy leader Raila Odinga has called on East Africa Community (EAC) states to consider initiating sanctions against Burundi to protest President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term.
Raila also asked the international community to intervene “and act robustly” against the Burundi administration, even as he accused EAC of failing to be firm and decisive against one of its member states, whose leadership is seeking an unconstitutional term in office.
The Opposition leader said the East Africa’s regional body must be bold and act tough on Burundi, in similar ways that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and South African Development Community (SADC) reacted when its member states were facing similar crises.
“Since the crisis in Burundi began, there has been no decisive statement or action from the EAC, which makes the regional body compare extremely poorly with counterparts like ECOWAS, which dealt decisively with crisis in Ivory Coast and SADC in Zimbabwe and Madagascar,” said Raila.
He added: “No option should be removed from the table including, but not limited to, suspension or expulsion from the EAC, AU, Comesa and other international organisations.”
In a statement to newsrooms, Raila said the seeking of an unconstitutional third term by President Nkurunziza was creating a crisis that would threaten peace in the region.
He said the manner in which EAC handles the crisis and growing political tension in Burundi will have serious implications for other regional states - DR Congo, Uganda and Rwanda - which have elections later this year, next year and in 2017 respectively.
Raila challenged the international community to be strong against Nkurunziza’s move to save the 2000 Arusha Accord on Burundi.
The Opposition leader said the goings-on in Burundi were an indicator that the peace that the country has enjoyed for 15 years since the signing of the accord was under threat, warning that the violence could, if not urgently arrested, escalate to neighbouring countries.
“It (the violence) has the potential of unleashing a new wave of violence and gross violation of human rights spilling into the neighbouring countries including Tanzania, Rwanda, DRC and the whole of Eastern and Central Africa region,” he said.
Raila warned the violence by the youth wing of the Burundi’s ruling National Council for the Defence of Democracy – Forces for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), Imbonerakure, must be contained as they were creating fear, especially in rural areas.
Raila said there was an increase in human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests and extra-judicial killings. Media freedom, he said, had also been affected with detention of journalists and shutting down of media outlets seen as being anti-administration.
“Three issues should worry all leaders in the region and the international community about the Imbonerakure; firstly, it is alleged that the youth group is taking an ethnic character.
“Secondly, the group is said to be arming itself with crude weapons and even a few guns. Thirdly, and even more sinister, is the allegation that the youth wing is being used to ‘map and identify’ those who are opposed to the third-term quest by the President,” said Raila.
He said the world must push Burundi to conduct credible elections, even as he urged Nkurunziza to honour the Constitution and decline going for the unconstitutional third term.