Happy National Day and Thanks for the Troops (Burundi)

2016_06_28-Burundi_Rotation-2

AMISOM flickr photo- Burundian troops rotate home
The State Department issued this statement today, as Burundi’s long crisis drags:

On behalf of the Government of the United States of America, congratulations to the people of Burundi on the 55th anniversary of your independence.

We applaud Burundi’s ongoing commitment to international peacekeeping operations and recognize the positive impact its troops have had in Somalia.

The United States stands with all Burundians committed to peace and prosperity. As you reflect on your history and address the challenges of today, we send best wishes for a bright future.

In the meantime, the Burundian government has accused the West and “international organizations” of conspiring with the Rwandan government to seek regime change and to steal Burundi’s resources.

Is Libya to Burundi in 2016 as Somalia was to Rwanda in 1994?

US Army deployedI have no answer to this question, and I hope and pray it is just something to think about abstractly.

What I am getting at is that for purposes of public consumption at least the Western democracies were in denial in 1994 about the risk of mass slaughter and eventually genocide and failed to act to an extent that we all pretty well have acknowledged shame about.  (No one bothers to suggest that China, Russia or other non-Western powers would be expected to be similarly troubled.) It seems to be recognized that the U.S. was the “indispensable” party that would have had to push forward to make intervention happen, but elected instead to pull back.  There is regret that we did not take affirmative action.

It also seems to be accepted that the “Black Hawk Down” disaster and generally unsatisfying experience of “humanitarian” intervention in Somalia took strong measures involving Americans off the table for Rwanda.  The Genocide Documentation Project by the National Security Archive and U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has helped us to see now how this actually played out back then.

Post-Rwanda 1994, of course, there has been over the years the notion that we learned a valuable lesson from that particular genocide and could now say “never again” with a newly “doctrinized” post-Cold War sense of purpose of a Responsibility to Protect.

Unfortunately the timing gets complicated by other events.  We are in a presidential election year.  Now the last major “humanitarian” intervention involving U.S. forces was Libya.  While initially celebrated, it has become a politically dicey sore spot.  The tragic loss of American lives later at Benghazi was fortunately not televised, but we now have a feature Hollywood movie coming anyway.  While Washington collectively is not yet ready to examine the decision making process on intervening or not, the specics of the Benghazi incident have attracted more investigation than I recall from “Black Hawk Down” as such.  The larger negative geopolitical fallout from the intervention in Libya has become much more apparent much sooner than in Somalia in the early ’90s and already appears to be a major concern of many facets and no easy solutions.

In that sense the factors supporting a cautionary holding back from acting are greater in 2016 than in 1994 (and of course I haven’t even mentioned Iraq/Syria and Afghanistan).

We have hoped that we would not be indispensable on Burundi, in particular that the (post-Gaddafi) African Union could find common purpose and means to act.  That hasn’t happened.  My perception is that there might be reason to hope for this sort of AU action many years in the future but that the capacity is really just not there now.

It has to be noted that governance in the region has continued to be dominated by what could be called a “league of extraordinary generals”–Kagame and Museveni as well as, in a sense, Nkurunziza.  Nearby Mugabe remains and Kabila the younger.  Who can really be an honest broker or claim with a straight face to be primarily acting on global “humanitarian” values without outside leadership?

Museveni and Nkurunziza are militarily allied with the West in the current AMISOM effort in Somalia which will need to continue for some long time yet.  Museveni is involved with the US in our Lord’s Resistance Army operation which presumably is indefinite at this point.  Kagame has apparently decided to postpone the transition to a postwar elected leadership by his constitutional referendum lifting term limits, like Museveni did long ago.  He probably expects a relationship at least as good with the next U. S. administration for his re-election in 2017. He appears to continue to be a darling of Davos and to be working with a variety of endeavors involving commodities trade and related regionalization that enjoy quasi-official support around Washington aside from the public foreign aid.

And now we see the leak through Reuters of the confidential report under UN auspices of Rwandan involvement in training and supporting rebels in Burundi already.

If, God forbid, things turn sharply for the worse in Burundi, and there “isn’t anyone else,” would the U.S. seriously consider an emergency humanitarian intervention or not?  If not, are we prepared to explain to our children why not, again, while living also with the consequences?  I am in no way qualified to advocate for or against a particular course of action, nor do I know the backstory of the latest facts on the ground, I am just asking the questions as to our policy parameters as a taxpayer/citizen/ voter and a person of humanitarian concern.

Again: Is Uhuru on his way to being the next East African authoritarian American darling?

Is Uhuru on his way to being the next East African authoritarian American darling? [originally I asked in April 2013; we are moving that much more quickly along the path with Secretary Kerry’s current visit ahead of Obama in July, as further allegedly necessitated by the Uhuruto administration’s conspicuous incompetence on “security”]

Transparency International Annual Corruption Perception Index released [corrected and updated]

The new Transparency International corruption perception rankings for 2010 have been released today.

For East Africa:

66 Rwanda (4.0 score on a scale of 10) [up from 3.3 for 2009]
116 Ethiopia (2.7) [unchanged]
116 Tanzania (2.7) [up from 2.6]
127 Uganda (2.5) [unchanged]
154 Kenya (2.1) [down from 2.2]
170 Burundi (1.8) [unchanged]
172 Sudan (1.6) [up from 1.5]
178 Somalia (1.1–lowest) [unchanged]

The United States dropped to 22nd with a 7.1 score.

The new report was drawn from surveys taken from January 2009 to September 2010.

For these listed East African countries, there was no demonstrated significant change from 2009 to 2010.

Given its methodology, the CPI is not a tool that is
suitable for trend analysis or for monitoring changes in the
perceived levels of corruption over time for all countries.
Year-to-year changes in a country/territory’s score can
result from a change in the perceptions of a country’s
performance, a change in the ranking provided by original
sources or changes in the methodology resulting from TI’s
efforts to improve the index.
If a country is featured in one or more specific data
sources for both of the last two CPIs (2009 CPI and 2010
CPI), those sources can be used to identify whether there
has been a change in perceived levels of corruption in
that particular country compared to the previous year.
TI has used this approach in 2010 to assess country
progress over the past year and to identify what can be
considered to be a change in perceptions of corruption.
These assessments use two criteria:
(a) there is a year-on-year change of at least 0.3 points in
a country’s CPI score, and
(b) the direction of this change is confirmed by more than
half of the data sources evaluating that country.
Based on these criteria, the following countries showed
an improvement from 2009 to 2010: Bhutan, Chile, Ecuador,
FYR Macedonia, Gambia, Haiti, Jamaica, Kuwait and
Qatar. The following countries showed deterioration from
2009 to 2010: the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary,
Italy, Madagascar, Niger and the United States.

Burundi: “Back to Square One” politically after ten years of power sharing? [Update 9-14]

From a new story on IRIN today assessing the state of democracy in the "other" partner in the East African Community:

“We convened on a political system liable to take into account both the political and ethnic dimensions of Burundi’s problem,” recalled Jean-Baptiste Manwangari, one of the Tutsi negotiators who worked on the pact. “It was a democratic system functioning much on the basis of a consensus and dialogue instead of a system of majority [rule], which for Burundi was likely to bring forth dictatorship.”

Now, according to one civil servant, Burundi has “gone back to square one… a [new] political accord needs to be negotiated to bring the opposition back on board.”

The pre-Arusha winner-takes-all style of politics is dangerous because it “creates a kind of survival strategy for the losers”, explained Pacifique Nininahazwe, head of the Forum pour le Renforcement de la Societé Civile, a coalition of civil society organizations outlawed in 2009.

“If the ruling party behaves in the same way as other victorious parties did in the past, the losers will adopt the same survival mechanisms,” he added.

One-party warning

The more than two-thirds parliamentary majority won by the CNDD-FDD “will transform the state from a multiparty system to essentially one-party dominance”, Henri Boschoff and Ralph Ellermann warned in a paper for the Pretoria-based Institute of Security Studies – Elections without competition and no peace without participation: where might it go from here.

“Ultimately [this] could have a highly detrimental effect on peace and democracy in Burundi,” they wrote, arguing that “the reluctance of Nkurunziza and the CNDD-FDD to govern the country in the spirit of its power-sharing constitution … drove the political climate towards a hostile environment where trust between the parties and in the constitution dissolved.

“Burundi is at risk of civil disobedience… The worst-case scenario would be a rebellion [against] state institutions caused by opposition parties,” the paper warned.

Update: See at the Africa Works blog “A Great African Journalist Sheds Tears for Burundi”.

“Political Stability”, “Investor Confidence” and meaningful elections in East Africa

Wednesday’s Nairobi Business Daily features a story headlined “Political stability lifts investor confidence in East Africa“:

Easing political tensions and the ongoing search for uniform governance standards in East Africa has lifted business confidence in the region and is encouraging investments that could boost employment.

Buoyed by recent peaceful elections, investors in the five EAC member countries said governance based on the rule of law had significantly lowered political risk, creating a stability that has allowed them to engage their expansion gears once again.

Rwanda and Burundi successfully concluded presidential elections last month, a trend that has been crowned by Kenya and Zanzibar early this month when they conducted peaceful referenda.

“It is satisfying for investors — and regional blue chip players in particular — when elections are peaceful the way we are witnessing them,” said Mr Peter Munyiri, KCB deputy CEO in charge of group business.

The bank, which has just raised Sh12.5 billion from its highly publicised rights issue, says it will use part of the money to mobilise savings and create a large pool of credit across the region, “Certainly the political and sovereign risks in the region set an attractive business environment and KCB can comfortably lend more money, with the region also expected to become the home for lots of overseas funds looking for investment destinations,” said Mr Munyiri.

It is certainly striking to see the presidential elections in Rwanda and Burundi labeled as “successful” when in both cases the sitting administrations essentially disqualified the opposition and conducted elections without meaninful competition–in Burundi without even a token alternative on the ballot. The notion of a security tradeoff between “stablity” and democratic political openness is certainly a familiar refrain in East Africa but it is rare to see a statement this explicit of an attractiveness to investors of meaningless but peaceful voting.

A follow up question is whether investors care about the political reforms so fervently hoped for as a result of the safe passage of the new Kenyan constitution, or is it just that fact that the vote was held without significant violence? Each of these countries presents a very different situation in many respects: at one extreme, Rwanda is relatively underdeveloped and poor outside Kigali and is hugely dependent on aid, but gets high marks for having relatively little corruption, and rapid progress in some areas of development while seeming to move further away from political openness. Kenya has had fairly robust overall growth most years post-Moi and receives a relatively small amount of its direct government budget from official assistance; at the same time it remains notoriously corrupt, has huge inequality and radically uneven development. In recent months, Kenya reformed its election commission and midwifed a new constitution that 90% of Kenyans reportedly are glad to have passed. So the trend on democracy in Kenya seems to be running now in the opposite direction from Burundi and Rwanda.

With security concerns rising with the latest bomb blast killing 6 MPs in Mogadishu and the July bombings in Kampala, how does the “investor confidence” factor play out in assessing the risks that are worth taking to support democracy in Uganda with elections coming in February?

Time covers Burundi’s “High Stakes” Presidential Election Monday

From Ioannis Gatsiounis in Time, “Why All of East Africa is Watching Burundi’s Election”:

When Burundi goes to the polls on June 28, it will be the first of four countries in the East African Community (EAC) to hold presidential elections over the next eight months. Neighboring leaders and international observers were hoping the war-torn country would set a positive precedent for the others in the EAC — an intergovernmental organization intended to create political and economic link between countries that include Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania — and complete its transition to democracy in the process. But in recent weeks, an escalating series of political clashes and violent incidents has made it unlikely that Burundi will serve as a role model for the region.

The trouble began on May 24 when voters in the country’s local elections handed power to the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD). Accusing the CNDD-FDD of fraud, the 13 opposition parties withdrew from the presidential race, leaving incumbent Pierre Nkurunziza as the only candidate.
. . . .
“Burundi is facing a serious crisis,” says Fabien Nsengimana, program coordinator of the Burundi Leadership Training Program. And it could endanger not only national but regional stability. Glancing at Burundi’s vital statistics, it’s hard to imagine that what goes on in the country could have such an impact — Burundi is landlocked, it’s one of Africa’s smallest countries and one of the world’s poorest, with little in the way of prized natural resources. Yet time and again the former Belgian colony has proved pivotal to east Africa’s security, serving as a crossroads for the illegal arms trade and a floodgate for refugees. It even played a part in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, with strife between Hutus and Tutsis in Burundi igniting tensions across the border.
. . . .
Burundi is no stranger to political strife, but traditionally it would cut along racial lines, with Hutus pitted against Tutsis. But a 2001 power-sharing agreement has effectively rendered race a non-issue. Today, four of President Nkurunziza’s 12 ministers, including his vice president, are Tutsi. These days, unrest is fed by social inequality: undereducated and unskilled youth, high unemployment, and a scarcity of land in a country where the majority of people survive as subsistent farmers.

Burundi vote; Coke(TM) in Somaliland

“This is Africa” has a good new discussion of the state of things after the first round of elections in Burundi.

Meanwhile, with the presidential election in Somaliland now just less than a month away, plans for a local Coca-Cola bottling plant between Hargeisa and Berbera hit the media this week:

Coke will be supplied in Somaliland by SBI (Somaliland Beverages Industries) and after the launch of the factory, bottles of Coke products will be priced to compete with locally bottled no-name brands and all Somalilanders will be able to take advantage of the great Coke taste at a great price.

There is no word yet as to whether or not SBI has considered recycling options for their output, however, perhaps somewhere in the future we can read about another group of Somaliland Entrepreneurs opening the country’s first recycling plant.