New massacre increases tensions
The recent history of Rwanda and Burundi is fresh in the collective memory of humankind for all the wrong reasons. Ten years ago, 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutus were butchered, literally hacked to death, by Hutu extremists.
New massacres in recent weeks by Hutus have rekindled fears that an explosion of ethnic violence is about to erupt along the borders between these two countries and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The question is, who was responsible for the recent massacre? A Hutu group in Burundi had originally claimed responsibility for the massacre of 160 Tutsi at the Gatumba refugee camp in Burundi on August 13th, but according to a report released today by Kofi Annan, eye-witnesses declared that the massacre was carried out by a rebel group from the DR Congo, who acted together with insurgents from Rwanda.
The National Liberation Front in Burundi which claimed responsibility for the massacre, had been seen engaged in battle with a base of the Burundi Armed Forces at the time of the attack against the Congolese Tutsi refugees in the Great Lakes region (the Banyamulengue). However, local people say
that the massacre was carried out by Mayi-Mayi Rebels from the DR Congo together with FDLR (Rwandan ex-FAR/Interhambwe).
The NLF had claimed that the Banyamulengue rebels had provided support to the FAB (Burundi Armed Forces) when these were attacked by the Hutu extremists.
The rhetoric is there, the increased tensions are there, the talk of retaliation by armed Tutsi militia is there, in fact all the ingredients are there for another orgy of blood-letting such as that which occurred in 1994 while the world stood idly by looking the other way.
More worryingly, this ethnic violence comes at a time of increased political tensions: the legislative elections were scheduled for 31st October, but the President, Domitien Ndayizeze, who has tried to postpone them for a year, is trying to prevent them from taking place.
Kofi Annan has urged the international community "not to let this horrific incident set them back after years of progress towards peace and development." Much is being done at an institutional level to create political mechanisms within Burundi for a local management of the crisis. It is being considered to revise the Arusha Agreement, signed in 2000,
replacing two vice-presidents of different ethnic origins by one Tutsi vice-president with the power of veto and to increase the number of Tutsi in legislative groups to 30%, representing the Tutsi minority in the country.
As usual, the international aid packages that were discussed at length and pledged after the violence in 1994 have not materialised and the much-needed cash to lift the country out of endemic poverty and the ensuing cycles of violence, creating jobs and wealth and giving people a future to look
forward to, have been no more than meaningless words written on pieces of paper.
Less than 10 million of the 156 m. USD pledged by donors had arrived by the end of August and only one million USD of the 21m. for the election budget has been donated.
If the international community is not prepared to live up to its promises, resolving the problems caused in many cases by foreign, colonial powers, how can Africa be expected to solve its problems on its own, after its social fabric was unbalanced, after its resources were stolen, after tariffs are imposed on its exports, after the WTO imposes unfair conditions for producers from the more developed countries, and when it costs far more for an African to travel or to communicate than it costs a European or North American?
It is easy for the international community to pilfer Africa's resources, draw lines on maps, wholly and utterly tamper with the natural social development of the continent by arming ethnic groups and instigating war between them in a policy of "divide et impera", then when the explosion arrives, turn its back and call Africans a bunch of savages.
It is the international community that is acting like a bunch of savages, thieves and murderers. It is time to act, now. Helping Africa to help itself means making investments. If the USA can spend 200 thousand million USD on its act of butchery in Iraq and if its lackeys can spend countless millions on supporting its arms industry with obediently signed contracts, and nobody
can produce what is by comparison a few pennies to help developing regions toward greater stability, then it is a sorry comment on humanity on the threshold of the third millennium and a very telling comment on the leaders of these countries.