Reminding President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi that he isn’t just the president of Uganda but also the chair of the Regional Inter-Burundi Dialogue, President Yoweri Museveni insists his counterpart should play by the rules and obey diplomatic hierarchy.
President Nkurunziza had written an open letter to President Museveni telling him that in dealing with Burundi, Museveni should treat the country individually rather than grouping it with Rwanda – a country with which they have strained diplomatic ties.
Rwanda and Burundi used to be the same country and many people still refer to them as one and the same till date. Both countries have a lot in common; they have the same ethnic groups with similar distribution (84% Hutus, 15% Tutsis & 1% Twa).
Rwanda and Burundi became independent from Belgium as separate countries, even though both were ethnically and cultural united. Burundi's first government was controlled by Tutsi while the first Rwandan government was Hutu.
Ruanda-Urundi was once a territory in the African Great Lakes region, which was part of German East Africa ruled by Belgium between 1916 and 1962. It was founded in 1922 with its capital in Bujumbura, the official languages was French. The territory was however dissolved in 1962.
Today, both countries maintain a strained relationship.
Just two days ago, the Rwandan government blamed Burundi for attacks on its citizens that led to the death of two persons and tons injured.
Here is the open letter exchange between President Nkurunziza and President Museveni.President Nkurunziza’s Letter
Your Excellency Mr President,
I would like to convey to you greetings and best wishes from the Burundian people and acknowledge receipt of your transmittal letter accompanying the Report of the Facilitator and former President of the United Republic of Tanzania, His Excellency Benjamin Mkapa.
The Government of the Republic of Burundi is grateful to the International Community in general and, in particular, to the East African Community for the efforts, the time and the means made to assist Burundi, especially when we were fighting against an insurrection, an attempt to overthrow democratically elected institutions and against terrorism some troublemakers were trying to establish in my country, unfortunately with the complicity and support of a Member State of the Community, Rwanda.
I am particularly grateful for your decision to include the Burundi-Rwanda conflict on the agenda of the November 2018 Summit.
However, the Burundi-Rwanda issue is so serious that it should be treated as a single point.
The Government of the Republic of Burundi also welcomes the understanding and the decision of the Heads of States to postpone the November 30" Summit as we had requested.
As far as the Facilitator's Report is concerned, Burundi has demonstrated its commitment to the values of democracy through an inclusive dialogue, by supporting, as of September 2015, an inter-Burundian dialogue process, under the aegis of the National Commission for Inter-Burundian Dialogue (CNDI) across the country and by sending delegates to all sessions organised by the EAC-led Facilitation, with the exception of the fifth and last ones scheduled on dates coinciding with a period of national mourning.
The Facilitator states that "the political situation in Burundi remains a matter of concern".
This is contrary to reality because he and his team and the regional organisations such as the ICGLR, the AU, the Pan African Parliament, the Association of African Ombudsmen: and the UN through the Peace building Commission, know this and confirmed it in their report after their visit throughout the country.
Apart from the perpetrators of the coup of May 2015 and their accomplices who fled justice after plunging Burundi into mourning, all the political parties and civil society organisations are working on the Burundian territory in an environment of democratic openness.
The holding of the referendum in 2018 should not be considered as a "fait accompli" because it is the will of the Burundian people and is within the sovereignty of States, and it is recognized by conventions, charters and international treaties.
In addition, the Facilitation Team never questioned the legitimacy of the Burundian institutions elected in 2015 for a five year term (2015-2020) as well as their duty and responsibility to implement what they were elected for.
Contrary to what is said in the report, the Government wishes to make it clear that there has not yet been a question of revising the Arusha Agreement or its constituent elements.
From 2000 to 2018, the Arusha Agreement reached the age of maturity, 18 years old.
All that was provided for by this Agreement has been achieved. We can no longer go back and question the step already taken with this Agreement because it would be a coup d'état to all its gains.
In addition, all the provisions of the Arusha Agreement were respected and the bodies recognized by it were all put in place.
Besides, the only body authorized to evaluate the implementation of the Arusha Agreement is the Burundian Senate, any other interference would be to overthrow this institution elected by the people.
It is wrong to consider the month of April 2015 as a starting point for the difficulties that Burundi has gone through.
The uprising, the coup attempt of May 13, 2015, the armed attacks from Rwanda (January 2015) and (July 2015) as well as the terrorist attacks in some neighbourhoods of Bujumbura, represent the culmination of the refusal of democracy since 2010.
It is all the more surprising that this Report to be endorsed by the EAC ignores the aggression of Burundi by Rwanda.
Burundi and other observers have shown that young Burundians, including children, were recruited from refugee camps and enlisted in criminal gang units and death squads for the purpose of destabilizing Burundi.
In addition to the fact that Rwanda has prepared and supervised the coup d'état of 2015, the coup perpetrators and other criminals have taken up residence in Rwanda where they receive support to attack Burundi crossing the Rwanda-Burundian border or via the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as getting assistance and travel documents to enable them to circulate in the region and even in Europe.
Concerning the Report's indication of the issues to be resolved before the 2020 elections, citing the deployment of foreign elements to replace the Republican forces in protecting the citizens, the consecration of impunity by cancelling arrest warrants against coup perpetrators or imprisoned elements and by amnestying them: would you accept, Excellency Mr. President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, to sit down with coup perpetrators on the run, if such a situation happened in Your country?
Could their Excellencies Uhuru Kenyatta and John Magufuli accept to violate the laws of their respective countries by leaving unpunished troublemakers who have attacked democratically elected institutions and by inviting them on a table of dialogue?
It is therefore very urgent for the East African Community to focus on the real problem that is jeopardising peace and security throughout Burundi.
It is Rwanda, a State Party to the Treaty establishing the East African Community, which is not at its first attempt to destabilise its neighbour Burundi.
Your Excellency Mr President, I would like to recommend the organisation of an extraordinary Summit whose agenda will be to clear the issue of open conflict between Burundi and Rwanda.
At the end of this extraordinary Summit, the Facilitation will then be able to organise the final round of dialogue with Burundian political partners to share the roadmap already agreed on and signed by all political parties, leading up to the 2020 elections.
— Pierre Nkurunziza, President of the Republic of Burundi.
President Museveni's response
I have received your letter and I thank you so much for it, especially for its candor in expressing your real sentiments of your excellency and your party the CNDI.
I have not yet, of course, consulted the other EAC members in responding to your letter.
That will be done on the 27th of December, 2018, when we have our ordinary session, if the summit agrees.
However, in the interim, I will, with equal condor, give your excellency my tentative response to some of the pillar points you have raised in your letter in only two capacities: the President of Uganda and the chairperson of the Inter-Burundi Dialogue, ever since it started with Mwalimu Nyerere on the 19th of June, 1998, in Mwanza.
First and foremost, your letter does not bring out the fact that, after a very long period of suffering, starting with the assassination of Rwangasore on the 13th of October, 1961, the basis of resolving the chronic Burundi problem was laid by the Arusha accord signed on the 28th of August, 2000.
The accord was guaranteed by the EAC. In fact, it is the EAC against the obstructions of the Western Powers in particular, that was part of the decisive pressure that forced the Buyoya Government to accept the Agreement.
Yes, your party, the CNDI, was engaged in an armed struggle, which, no doubt, was part of the pressure of the Buyoya Tutsi Government.
Nevertheless, the CNDI did not capture the Bujumbara by arms. It, along with other exiles, came to Bunjumbura by negotiations led by the EAC.
Therefore, the EAC intervened in the internal affairs of Burundi to bring bring about "Democracy and security for all" in the place of the Tutsi monopoly of power in the interests of "group security" as Mwalimu summarised the issues at Mwanza.
Burundi experienced peace until October, 2015 when some arguments about term limits, etc., started.
That is when the EAC, again, tried to find out what was happening.
Therefore, your line of saying that the EAC is uprising from the sovereignty of the Burundian people by wanting to know the latest of the evolution of the political situation in Burundi, may not be correct.
There is the historic treaty of Arusha which the region guaranteed. What does "guarantee" mean? It means that you take interest to be sure that what was agreed is on course.
Respecting inter-state agreements, even when they impact internal situations, may not be interference.
It is only what was agreed. However, for one party to declare the end of the interaction unilaterally may not be correct.
It may also undermine the credibility of both the internal and regional actors. Who, then, will take seriously the guarantees by the region in the future in other situations?
The other pillar issue in your letter is the issue of accountability and pace building – punishing the mistake makers and not tolerating impunity.
You even asked me if I could sit down with the coup – makers and terrorists, etc. the answer is, actually, "yes".
Uganda would have never been saved if the revolutionary forces led by myself for the last 53 years (Student Movements, Fronasa, NRM, etc.) had not both fought against and negotiated with the coup-makers, terrorists, etc. the first coup was in 1966, led by Obote; the second was in 1971, led by Amin; the third was the rigged elections of 1980; etc.
The actors in most of these events or their followers are now part of our government.
That is how Uganda was stabilised. However, in the case of Burundi, the facilitator did not insist on the coup-makers sitting in the negotiations.
What, then, is the problem? I negotiated with Kony who had killed thousands, cut off people's ears so that they do not hear his atrocities, cut off their lips so that they have no mouths with which to report his activities, etc. it is him, in the end, that refused to sign.
That is when we went after him in Congo and CAR.
I totally agree that the tension between Rwanda and Burundi should be discussed. This is the logic of the common market.
The common market means that the free flow of goods and services and the movement of persons. How will this happen sustainably if there is tension and suspicion among member states?
Issue of principle
Your Excellency, the happy news that Burundi is totally peaceful, is a very pleasant phenomenon.
It does not, however, answer the issue of principle. The principles are that the chronic problem of Burundi was ended by the inter-Burundian Arusha agreement guaranteed by the region.
It is a matter of elementary courtesy and wise strategy for the principal internal actor to interact with guarantors and some skeptical elements within Burundi to be sure that events are on course.
Finally, although it was not part of your letter, I must bring it to your attention that accountability is not only for the people in the government.
Even liberation movements must be held accountable. A revolutionary Movement is distinguished from a terrorist organisation, not only by the course it pursues which must be a just one, but also by the methods it uses.
— Yoweri Kaguta Museveni
President of the Republic of Uganda/Chairperson, Regional Inter-Burundi Dialogue
Header Image Credit: PML Daily