Instability in Burundi could further destabilize Africa's Great Lakes Region


KPFA Evening News, broadcast 04.19.2014

Tension in Burundi, the African nation bordering Rwanda, with the same history of Hutu-Tutsi conflict, roused fears of ethnic massacres like those of the 1990s, but Professor Charles Kambanda told KPFA that Burundi's problem is not really Hutu and Tutsi, but a struggle for power.



KPFA Evening News Anchor Cameron Jones: Earlier this week, Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza expelled a UN official from his country after that official released a report that the president was arming civilian militias. At the same time Nkurunziza moved to amend Burundi’s Constitution to eliminate term limits so that he could stay on as president. Because Burundi, which neighbors Rwanda, shares the same majority Hutu and minority Tutsi demographic and history of conflict, the report caused international anxiety that Nkurunziza might be preparing for a genocidal war with the Tutsi. St. John’s Law Professor Charles Kambanda, a political exile from President Paul Kagame’s Rwanda, told KPFA’s Ann Garrison that the tension is in fact far more complex and that it includes inter-Tutsi and inter-Hutu struggles for power. Here’s that conversation.  
KPFA/Ann Garrison: Professor Kambanda, we’re not going to be able to sort out all the Hutu-Tutsi, inter-Tutsi, inter-Hutu, and international tensions now threatening even greater instability in the Great Lakes Region of Africa, but we’ll try to hit a few central points, starting with the UN official’s report that Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza was arming civilian militias and that Nkuruniza decided to kick that UN official out of the country. Could you help us make sense of that?  
Professor Charles Kambanda: It's regrettable that the President of Burundi took that decision to kick out the UN representative in Burundi. That was, in my opinion, a political mistake. However, I also think that there was so much misguided propaganda about what is happening in Burundi. I don't think the Burundian problem is Hutu-Tutsi. It's struggle for power. It is just struggle for power.  
KPFA/Garrison: Is it true that the Hutu President of Burundi Pierre Nkurunziza, a former ally of the Tutsi President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, leaked a plot by President Kagame to assassinate the President of Tanzania, Jacaya Kikwete?

Professor Kambanda: Although I don't have enough evidence in front of me to prove that, I wouldn't be surprised that, first, Kagame would have such a plan, to assassinate President Kikwete. The reason why President Nkurunziza would report that kind of plan to President Kikwete is basically because Kagame has killed, has assassinated, at least four presidents, sitting presidents. So I believe, if such a thing came up, Nkurunziza probably felt that executing that plan with Kagame would make him even more vulnerable, because immediately after killing President Kikwete, it would be President Nkurunziza who would be killed, would be assassinated.

KPFA/Jones: And that was KPFA's Ann Garrison speaking with Rwandan American law professor Charles Kambanda. 

Follow Ann Garrison on: