MenEngage Africa is deeply concerned about the ongoing crisis that threatens the stability of Burundi. As an alliance, we are mostly concerned about the slow pace of action to intervene in the crisis. At its recent summit held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 29 – 31 January 2016, the African Union (AU) back-tracked from an undertaking it made in December last year to send 5 000 peace-keeping troops to Burundi to quell the continuing political violence in the central African country. Instead, the body decided that it will deploy a high-level delegation to convene a dialogue to negotiate a settlement acceptable to the Burundian president, Pierre Nkurunziza, to end the political crisis that arose after he forcefully secured a controversial third term in office. The composition and timing of the deployment of this high-level delegation is yet to be determined.
While the plan is still being considered, the safety and security of civilians in Burundi hang in the balance. According to credible UN reports, more than 400 people have been killed, in excess of 3 500 people opposed to Nkurunziza’s third term in office have been detained and about 230 000 people have fled the country since the beginning of the conflict in April, last year. This has sparked fears of a return to civil war, a decade after the Hutu-Tutsi conflict that resulted in 300 000 people dying.
So, what happens in the meantime while the AU is considering its high-level delegation to Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura, to negotiate a political settlement? More civilians die! More people are displaced! More women and children are raped!
MenEngage Africa is concerned about this continued loss of human lives. We are particularly concerned that women, girls and children are most at risk to get hurt and abused. Observational evidence has shown that women and girls often become subject to illegal and forced marriage, sexual abuse and rape, while boy children are abducted and forcefully used to carry out criminal activities during times of political conflict.
We are greatly concerned about the utter disregard for the rule of law, good governance and accountability by our leaders in Africa. It is high time that they are held accountable for their actions. Apart from the internal strife, the effects of the conflict are likely to spill over to other countries and apply pressure on those countries’ already meagre resources as civilians continue to flee Burundi.
Conflict, especially long-drawn, means that investors are likely to be driven away, taking much needed resources and know-how with them. Consequently, our economies are likely to suffer and cause further strife to the lives of the people. This will add to more job losses, increasing the already high rates of unemployment. This is concerning since our continent is a youthful region given that almost 60% of citizens are below the age of 35 years of age. This does not augur well for the future.
As MenEngage Africa, we feel that one aspect that has not merited special attention in all these conflicts is the insidious influence patriarchy has on most of our leaders’ decisions. This political system that promotes male dominance and superiority over females and so-called “weak males” entrenches and perpetuates itself by meting out various forms of psychological terrorism and violence continues to find fertile ground that allows it to flourish in Africa.
We believe that patriarchy continues to undermine gender equality and, consequently, the human rights of women and children. Invariably, conflict and war overwhelmingly contribute towards patriarchical reproduction modes – we have seen disturbing images of Burundian soldiers dragging half-naked civilians in the streets while others throw heavy stones on them. We are concerned about the pressure being put on civil society organisations by the current regime, seeking to undermine the legitimate work of these organisations due to them taking a stand for accountable leadership.
As such, we urge all parties to exercise restraint and respect the human rights and dignity of all parties, regardless of sex, tribe or political affiliation. Wars are a human construct and these conflicts can stop as soon as all parties realise they have more to lose than win in continuing pursuing such senseless and murderous conflicts. Therefore, as MenEngage Africa, we call upon the African Union to be serious about human rights, good governance and accountability. We urge the AU, the regional East Africa Community (EAC) and the United Nations (UN) to urgently help resolve the Burundi crisis and to end the unnecessary loss of lives.
FOR MEDIA QUERIES CONTACT:
- Bafana Khumalo: co-chair, MenEngage Africa Alliance.
Tel: +27113393589; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Júlio Langa: co-chair, MenEngage Africa Alliance.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
MenEngageAfrica is part of a global alliance of organisations that engage men and boys to achieve gender equality and to question the structural barriers to achieve gender equality, promote health, reduce violence and defend and promote human rights and social justice for all. The alliance consists of representatives from each continent and these delegates co-ordinate the country networks on their respective continents. Sonke Gender Justice chairs MenEngage Africa, which consists of 20 country networks across Africa, including in Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.