US STILL DEMANDING THAT BURUNDI'S NKURUNZIZA STAND DOWN

Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza
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UN human rights investigators, in a press release from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, have asked the UN Security Council to take urgent action to prevent mass violence in the tiny East African nation of Burundi and the surrounding region. At the same time, US Under Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas Greenfield reiterated the US demand that Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza step down. Nearly two months ago, Russia and China blocked a UN Security Council resolution censuring Nkurunziza for choosing to run for a third term, and said that the Council should stay out of the sovereign nation's internal affairs. 
 
Nkurunziza's party has already won a large majority in parliament and Agence France Presse reports that he's hugely popular with the rural peasant majority. The presidential election is scheduled to take place in two days, on July 21st. 
 
UN human rights investigators have joined the US State Department in blaming Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to seek a third term for the street violence that began in several neighborhoods in Burundi’s capital in April. They also blame Nkurunziza for the cross border flight of more than 100,000 Burundian refugees fearing election violence. The refugees have crossed Burundi's borders into Tanzania, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Curiously, neither the UN investigators nor the US State Department blame the Burundian military officers who staged a failed coup attempt in May, then fled and declared war on Burundi from outside its borders.    
 
Hostilities between Rwanda and Burundi have increased since April, with the two country’s presidents exchanging threats. Last week, Burundian soldiers clashed with troops near Burundi’s northern border. Burundi blamed Rwanda and said the troops had crossed its northern border, but Rwanda denied responsibility. Rwanda and Burundi share not only a border but also the bi-polar Hutu and Tutsi ethnic demographic and history of mass violence, and many have warned that the violence may resume as it did in the 1990s, when it spilled over into the Democratic Republic of the Congo and continued to this day.  

"The State Department has been very very vocal on Burundi," said Shaka Ssali. "They have basically in fact focused on the issue of President Pierre Nkurunziza like a sort of political laser beam. What is it that needs to be resolved in Burundi? Because we're not talking about changing the constitution here. We're talking about tweaking it, perhaps."
 
This week Shaka Ssali, the Ugandan born host of Voice of America’s Straight Talk Africa, asked US Under Secretary of of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas- Greenfield why the US is so fiercely focused on Burundi and so determined that President Nkurunziza step down. "The State Department has been very very vocal on Burundi," he said. "They have basically in fact focused on the issue of President Pierre Nkurunziza like a sort of political laser beam. What is it that needs to be resolved in Burundi? Because we're not talking about changing the constitution here. We're talking about tweaking it, perhaps."
 
"What we're talking about in Burundi is transition," Greenfield responded. "What we're talking about is President Nkurunziza accepting the fact that he has had two full terms as president and honoring the principles of the Arusha Accord, which limits the president to two full terms. There are interpretations being made of the Constitution that suggest that his first term was not an elected term by popular vote, so it doesn't count, but in fact, we believe it does count."
 
A member of the Straight Talk Africa audience asked why US policy is inconsistent in the region, and Greenfield responded that US policy is consistent. "Our policy is very consistent and it's global," she said. "It is not about one country, it is not about one region, it is not about the African continent."
 
However, the facts of recent elections in the African Great Lakes Region point to radically inconsistent US policy. The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s President Joseph Kabila and Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame were both appointed to their first terms and both went on to claim the constitutional right to be elected twice by universal suffrage, without protest by the US. Now, as Nkurunziza claims the same right, the US and UN human rights investigators blame him for risking mass violence in Burundi and even regional war.

The regional tensions are no doubt real, the danger of mass violence great, but the African Great Lakes Region is so resource rich that the resource interests of the world’s industrial and military power elites are perforce in play behind the news.
 
The regional tensions are no doubt real, the danger of mass violence great, but the African Great Lakes Region is so resource rich that the resource interests of the world’s industrial and military power elites are perforce in play behind the news. Burundi has signed a lease to mine its nickel, cobalt, and copper reserves with a Russian firm. And, like Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania, Burundi shares a geostrategic border with the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, a vast storehouse of strategic mineral reserves.   
 

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