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Burundi on the brink, the world must act

By The Standard | Dec 15th 2015 | 2 min read

Burundi is on the edge of a precipice. Tragically, the rest of the world is watching, silently.

President Pierre Nkurunziza’s announcement that he would run for a third presidential term in June’s elections despite a two-term limitation imposed by the country’s constitution was the fuse that exploded, plunging the small, land-locked nation into violence and chaos.

A failed coup attempt in May led to a month’s delay of the elections. Mr Nkurunziza won in an election dismissed by international observers as a sham. By then, violence had broken out all over the country. Senior government officials have been targets of gunmen who also attack military installations around Bujumbura, the capital city. An attack last Friday reportedly left at least 87 people dead with several injured.

Africa has seen too much bloodshed that Burundi should not be let to slide into genocide as was the case in neighbouring Rwanda where up to 800,000 people were killed in 100 days in 1990.

A former Belgian colony, Burundi has been under the spell of a civil war for most of its independence history. The election of Mr Nkurunziza in 2005 brought a semblance of peace. Today, Mr Nkurunziza’s intransigence threatens to tear apart the country. That should not be allowed.

Yet what is galling most is the collective silence from Nkurunziza’s peers in the East African Community and Africa. Of course, little would be expected from most of them: not from Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni who has twice tinkered with the constitution to extend his term limit; not from Burundi’s northern neighbour Rwanda whose President Paul Kagame seems keen on a term extension; not from Tanzania’s Pombe Magufuli who is still trying to settle down after an election win in October. The thought of another failed state next door should force them to act.

It therefore falls on President Uhuru Kenyatta to speak up against what obviously is an attempt to halt the march of democracy in the region.

Silence is not golden. The world must act to save Burundi before it is too late.

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