Analysts react to Tanzania’s position on Burundi crisis

Thursday December 24 2015



President Pierre Nkurunziza.

President Pierre Nkurunziza. 

Dar es Salaam. Tanzania’s stance against the deployment of the African Union (AU) peacekeeping force in Burundi has drawn mixed reactions from political analysts and diplomats.

Foreign Affairs minister Augustine Mahiga announced Tuesday Tanzania was against the AU plan to send troops to the troubled country, but would instead push for talks to end the Burundi violence that has so far claimed over 400 lives.

Reacting to the announcement yesterday, those who spoke to The Citizen differed on whether or not the deployment of the AU force was the right thing to do under the circumstances.

Former East African Community (EAC) secretary general Juma Mwapachu hailed President John Magufuli’s initiative to revive talks saying it was the only solution to the problem.

“The solution to the crisis in Burundi cannot come from anywhere other than the EAC because they better understand the history of that country and that they have been handling the same before,” he said.

Mr Mwapachu noted that negotiations would be successful because the EAC had the best conflict management protocols compared to any other bloc in the continent.

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He said: “It is sad that regional leaders delayed to revive the negotiations, this is what prompted the AU to decide on the peace keeping force.”

Tanzania embarked on shuttle diplomacy Wednesday, with the Foreign Affairs minister meeting President Yoweri Museveni in Kampala in a bid to revive the talks. Dr Mahiga was yesterday expected to be in Bujumbura for a meeting with embattled President Pierre Nkurunziza, members of the opposition and the civil society.

A senior political scientist and former UDSM lecturer Prof Mwesiga Baregu, welcomed the decision by Tanzania. But he warned the idea would work only if all EAC member states took the Burundi crisis as a matter of urgency.

He also believes that a peacekeeping force could help speed up the talks. “Negotiations must go hand in hand with the AU idea as this can help in speeding up the process instead of going with one idea,” he said in an interview with The Citizen.

However, a former lecturer at the Mozambique-Tanzania Centre for Foreign Relations, Prof Abdallah Safari, argued that by going against the AU decision this time round, Tanzania was not being consistent in its handling of conflicts in neighbouring countries.

“Why are we opting for talks in Burundi while in other countries like the Comoros we responded by sending our army? Is the country not betraying its support for President Nkurunzinza?” queried Prof Safari.

A High Court lawyer, Prof Safari said President Nkurunziza flouted his country’s constitution. The only option to end the reign of terror in the country, Prof Safari added, was by sending the AU force.

Burundi, plunged into the current crisis on April 25 after President Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term and has rejected the idea of having a foreign army on its soil. The country has instead called on the regional body to seek other ways to end the violence.

However, the AU’s Peace and Security Council agreed Friday to deploy troops for an initial period of six months. It gave Burundi 96 hours to cooperate with the decision.

But Burundi warned of retaliation if any foreign troops were deployed. Meanwhile, Tanzania hopes to have peace talks back on track by December 28, only four days from now.

Burundi’s defiance should be considered too, if there is to be lasting peace in the country, Mr Emanuel Mbunda of the University of Dar es Salaam warned.

He said: “The deployment of the AU force may not be the best strategy because the Burundi government seems determined to maintain its control of the state.”

Opposition leader, Mr Freeman Mbowe, told The Citizen that Tanzania lacked the moral authority to mediate in Burundi.

“How can we involve ourselves in other people’s matters while we are failing to accept the will of the people of Zanzibar?” he queried.