The days of Africa relying on the international community to intervene to stop the bloodletting are supposed to be long over. The operationalisation of the African Standby Force has been discussed for over 13 years, and the African Crisis Response Initiative (ACIRC) was supposed to be an interim measure.
These forces were expressly for the purpose of intervening in cases of gross human rights abuses and genocide on the continent, so that Africa didn’t have to rely on the goodwill of the international community to intervene.
For all the peace and security architecture that the continent has spent well over a decade creating, the political will to use it has not been forthcoming. This week, Kenya’s opposition leader, Raila Odinga, called on the international community to assist the people of Burundi against what he called Burundi’s “murderous regime” in the face of AU inaction. “The international community needs to stand with the people of Burundi if Africa will not,” he said.
This was not supposed to happen in Africa of the 21st century. We know the reasons why the big powers never intervened effectively in Rwanda in 1994, and those reasons haven’t changed. The current French head of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Herve Ladsous, has already warned that in a scenario of all-out genocide in Burundi, the UN would be ineffective and ill-prepared to stop it. A leaked memo he wrote |to the UN Security Council last month shows there is no plan to prevent genocide in Burundi.
“UN peacekeeping is limited in its ability to address significant violence against civilians, even violence amounting to genocide, where it lacks a political framework and the consent of the host nation and/or the main parties to the conflict.”
This is hardly surprising as Burundi has no resources to offer the world, and is one of the poorest countries in Africa. It is convenient to leave its descent into chaos in the hands of the AU.
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