• Over the recent past, Rwanda and Burundi have been at loggerheads, with each country accusing the other of supporting rebels to undermine the ruling government.

    One thing has made the two nations have one voice for a moment before lashing at each other all over again. That is their unified argument that the US is not justified to claim that the leaders in the two countries have grabbed power.

    In a rather undiplomatic move during a United Nations Security Council debate, a senior Burundian official remarked that “it is absolutely unacceptable that some appoint themselves as judges over our countries.”

    The official was referring to the US ambassador Samantha Power's claim that “democratic processes are being deliberately undermined” in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as in Rwanda and Burundi.

    On behalf of Rwanda, a minister asked the US ambassador not to speak ill of President Paul Kagame, Daily nation reported.

    According to Ambassador Power, there has been an “accelerating trend” among the presidents in the four countries where the “leaders make increasingly blatant power grabs to remain in office.” This she said the leaders do by harassing the media, arresting critics and the opposition as well as threatening the civil-society groups.

    Previously, Power blamed Burundi’s crises on a Burundian president “in denial,” and an opposition aided by Rwanda that has “radicalized over time.”

    She added that President Pierre Nkurunziza punishes critics who points out the challenges Burundi is facing under his leadership, by kicking them “out of the inner circle.”

    Additionally, the ambassador blamed Rwandan government for training and supporting Burundi’s opposition. “We believe that the reports of Rwandan involvement are credible, and we have exerted public and private pressure on Rwanda to do nothing to further destabilize the situation,” she noted, adding that parts of the opposition “have grown violent.”

    Seeking the third term

    Burundi which borders Rwanda to the north, the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west and Tanzania to the east, fell into crises in April 2015 when President Nkurunziza insisted on seeking a third term.

    After pressuring the Constitutional Court, Nkurunziza was allowed to run for the presidency and secured the leadership in July 2015, which has left hundreds of people dead and many others have fled the country that is slowly disintegrating.

    Thierry Vircoulon from the International Crisis Group observed that Burundians already knew the outcome of the elections since it was an election “with only one candidate.”

    Ever since Burundi has been in turmoil and efforts to send the African Union peacekeeping force into the country have been rejected. The head of state told a visiting delegation of the UN Security Council that the African Union “must respect Burundi as a member state, and we must be consulted.” This he said after the African Union Peace and Security Council voted to deploy 5,000 peacekeeping forces in Burundi without the government’s consent in December last year.

    President Paul Kagame’s new year announcement that he would be seeking third presidential term despite Washington’s calls for political transitions in Rwanda has attracted support and rejection in almost equal measures.

    After a national referendum in 2015, President Kagame will be able to extend his authoritarian, single-party rule until 2034- the next 18 long years!

    Kagame’s supporters argue that only him (Kagame) can lead the nation which is still recovering from the 1994 genocide. They believe he can help Rwanda achieve and maintain peace and development.

    However, the US envoy during the debate remarked that Rwanda lacks political space pointing that individuals and journalists are not able to discuss political affairs or report on issues of public concern. In some instances, those who are deemed to oppose the ruling government face harassment of various forms.

    “Rwanda can achieve lasting peace and prosperity through a government centered on the principle of democratic accountability, not centered on any one single individual,” Ambassador Power declared.


    Image credit: flickr