Sunday, July 19, 2015

Burundi: We've played this scene before.

A statement from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

UN experts call for determined Security Council action to prevent mass violence in the Great Lakes region

GENEVA (16 July 2015) – A group of United Nations human rights experts* today urged the Security Council to take immediate action to prevent Burundi from sliding back into violent conflict ahead of presidential elections, a crisis which will not leave the other countries in the region, including Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, unaffected. Thus far, 145,000 persons have fled to neighbouring countries in fear for their lives.

This is something that should scare the shit out of the whole world. Once again we are seeing the Great Lakes Region of Africa descend into chaos and once again the world is looking away. Six million lives have been lost in the DR Congo since 1998 and lets not forget the genocide in Rwanda and a further 800,000 lives. 

“The world is witnessing an escalating pattern of politically motivated violence in Burundi, enabled by the country’s decades-long tradition of impunity,” the experts warned. “The international community must not simply stand by and wait for mass atrocities to unfold, thereby risking a major conflict of regional proportions before it finally decides to act,” the Special Rapporteurs added, pointing to repeated cycles of mass violations that Burundi and the Great Lakes region have witnessed in recent history.

New Zealand is the currently president of the Security Council as we were when the Rwandan Genocide occurred and once again the Security Council is dithering. The difference being the last time we held the presidency we acted with honour.

" As the death count grew, our Ambassador, Colin Keating, pressed hard for the UN peacekeeping mission in Rwanda to be strengthened, and for the Council to declare this atrocity as genocide.

As the Council’s President in April 1994, we even had to threaten to hold a public debate to shame certain countries for their refusal to acknowledge what was happening.

In the end, mainly because of the unwillingness of some of the Council’s permanent members, those efforts were unsuccessful and 800,000 innocent people were butchered – many with jungle knives."

For fucks sake our ( NZ ) official position is that we oppose the great power Security Council veto. Yes we failed Rwanda but we tried. We may fail again...we will certainly fail if we don't try. The world voted us onto the Security Council not the vested interests of the west.

The situation in Burundi has already involved serious human rights violations. “It is accumulating the well-known and visible marks of a society which previously suffered divisions leading to grave violence. This can escalate into major conflict through the use of outright repression against, and intimidation of, the population at large, the instrumentalization of the police, the closure of independent media, as well as the detention of the opposition and other civic leaders. We also witness efforts to coerce the judiciary, some of whose highest members have fled the country claiming their lives were at risk. In the meantime, armed militias, with the collaboration of authorities, exercise violence against civilians. In these circumstances, it is not surprising that the results of the 29 June elections have generally not been endorsed,” the experts raised alarm. 

In short we have all the ingredients for another ethnic conflict that like the rest will engulf the the Great Lakes Region with potential consequences that don't bare thinking about except that we will have to do a lot more than think about them if   when they come to pass.

“The absence of independent media and a climate of repression and fear to exercise civil rights and express opinions, notably by peacefully taking to the streets, have marred the recent elections and will also be defining the forthcoming presidential elections, now scheduled for 21 July. The postponement by six days of the presidential elections does not remedy this blatant deficiency,” the mandate-holders stated.

It might be time for the world as represented by the Security Council to remind certain African dictators of a supposedly African proverb popularised by American President Roosevelt.

" Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far,"  

“If the government persists in holding presidential elections under the current circumstances – something even the former first Vice-President objected to after also having fled the country – they will in no way confer any legitimacy on the to-be-elected authorities. On the contrary, the elections are highly likely to result in major instability and confrontations in Burundi, with the potential to spread to the region,” the experts warned.

The big and forever unanswered question being who will benefit from the instability ? Oh of course the West, instability is opportunity.... just look at the illegal exploitation of resources multi-nationals have achieved in the DR Congo....and the cost... six million Congolese lives.  

On 9 July, the situation on Burundi was most recently discussed by the Security Council. The seven independent experts strongly echoed the call made by the High Commissioner for Human Rights to immediately disarm the youth militia Imbonerakure which is spreading major violence and intimidation among the population. The experts join the High Commissioner in recalling that the people of Burundi “have a right to go about their lives peacefully, in freedom, equality and dignity; without fear, and with equitable access to their country's many resources and opportunities.”

The Imbonerakure are targeting Tutsi communities and it would seem are predominantly a Hutu organisation.To quote Marrilion's Fish " You've played this scene before ".  

“The Security Council has a unique role for peace and security and for preventing conflicts worldwide. This is a crisis that is eminently preventable – everyone can see the risks. What is lacking is action,” underscored the independent experts. “Given the painful history of Burundi and the region, the long engagement of the United Nations in the country to re-build peace, the Security Council must be all the more alerted to the increasing potential of an escalation of massive violence,” the experts added.

And New Zealand as the current the president of the Security Council have failed enormously. We have failed our own legacy... even worse we have failed the trust the world mandated us with. 

“Burundians, who live in the world’s third poorest country must be spared another cycle of violence, with the misery and destruction that violence always leave on its wake. They look to the Security Council to live up to its unique role in the prevention of mass atrocities,” the experts urged.

I am ashamed to be a New Zealander today. John Key a new flag will not disassociate us from a genocide we did nothing to prevent. If our old brand has more honour than our new brand it would be better to abandon the exercise.

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