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ONE of the biggest tragedies in post-colonial Africa has been the failure by its people and leaders alike to call a spade a spade.
President Robert Mugabe is expected to bow out as African Union (AU) chairperson at a time when Burundi has become a regional hotspot that has left children and women living in fear.
Burundi has become another case projecting a contested narrative of ineffective peer review mechanisms in Africa.
Sadly regional blocs are now seen as dictators’ talk shows. For how long should discerning Burundians continue to be harassed, intimidated and tortured for speaking truth to power before regional leaders take the bull by its horns?
Calls for a well-trained AU force will become much louder after Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza threatened to repel African Union (AU) peacekeepers if they are deployed to the country. The AU announced last month that it would send 5 000 troops to protect civilians in the country, even without the government’s consent.
Political upheaval and systematic killings by security forces and armed opposition have left many petrified, after demonstrations broke out last April in response to Nkurunziza’s decision to seek a third electoral term. The decimation of civilians escalated after July’s disputed polls which the incumbent won. Since then, Burundi has never known peace. And Africa is watching.
Whether or not the chair of the AU is symbolic is a debate for another day. While alive to the geopolitics of the Great Lakes and attendant risks awaiting AU forces when they set foot in Burundi, one thing that is apparent is Mugabe – who hands over the proverbial baton stick to Chad president Idriss Deby – should be more vocal on the Burundi issue to save lives.
A country can fight until the end of time to protect its territorial integrity and sovereignty but human life is and will always be sacred. Mugabe should unequivocally express his impatience with Burundi lest the invisible hand may take up matters and before long, Burundi slides into a failed state.
The unpalatable situation presents an opportunity for contemporary African leaders to re-write history.
If the deployment sails through, it would be the first time the AU has used its power to deploy a force without a country’s consent. Mugabe and other African leaders must stand up and be counted.
Through bickering and developing cold feet Africa is not only denying its people to be part of the history making but depriving them of dignity as well.
As Mugabe bids farewell to Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and the AU secretariat, Nkurunziza who dispatched a special envoy to Harare in an attempt to stall the deployment of AU force should be called to order. He should be held accountable for human life losses and respect the AU Charter, lest the regional body becomes irrelevant. Any contrary development will be a betrayal to millions that call this continent home.