The failure of President Jacob Zuma and other AU’s High Level panel to achieve the proposed peace talk with the president of Burundi has raised lots of issues among international bodies.
Report reaching us has it that the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) told Parliament that despite acknowledging the deaths of at least 450 in the conflict so far and the displacement of over 230,000 Burundians, the earlier reported risk of genocide and civil war were “exaggerated”.
This statement was made to justify Zuma’s inability to achieve the aim of the AU except for the mere concession from President Nkurunziza of Burundi as a result of his recent mediation efforts.
The Panel, led by Zuma was largely expected to make Mr Nkurunziza allow the deployment of a 5 000 strong AU peacekeeping mission to Burundi. But this was not achieved. It was in fact not part of the issues discussed during their meeting with the Burundian president.
The only tangible achievement of the Panel’s visit appears to have been a commitment to a meager increase in the number of human rights and military observers.
UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, had earlier urged the AU to establish a prevention and protection force, which the AU Peace and Security Council was preparing to establish in December 2015 before Mr Nkurunziza objected to it.
President Jacob Zuma however reported that their journey to Burundi was successful and their aim of going there fully achieved. He even applauded Nkuruziza for his “strong commitment” to resolving the crisis in the country.
This came few days after the Human Rights Watch reported that the Nkuruziza’s regime was “targeting perceived opponents with increasing brutality”. Government forces were even said to be “killing, abducting, torturing, and arbitrarily arresting scores of people at an alarming rate.”
Zuma was appointed to lead the team with the hope that he would maximize the opportunity to exhibit leadership in the crisis. But was said to have rather chosen to prioritize his relationship with the embattled head of state over the human rights of ordinary African men and women.
The DA however, plans to write to Zuma to ask that he re-engage with President Nkurunziza to discuss the deployment of the necessary peacekeeping force. The DA will continue to engage with NGOs on the ground in Burundi to monitor the situation as it develops.