#R2P10: The Burundi crisis and the risk of regionalisation
The following is the most recent submission to the ICRtoP’s RtoP at 10 blog series, which invites civil society and academic experts to examine critical country cases, international/regional perspectives, and thematic issues that have been influential in the development of the norm over the past 10 years, and that will have a lasting impact going forth into the next decade. Below is a piece by Lucy Hovil, Senior Researcher at International Refugee Rights Initiative, a Steering Committee Member of the ICRtoP.
Much hope was pinned to the summit of East African Community (EAC) heads of state on 31 May in Dar es Salaam to discuss the situation in Burundi that has evolved since President Nkurunziza announced his intention to stand for a third term. The potential impact of this meeting was lessened by the fact that Nkurunziza, not surprisingly, did not attend: the last time he left the country, there was an attempted coup.
Previous experience in the region has shown that the destiny of each of the region’s countries is deeply intertwined with that of its neighbours. The approach of the EAC is an important example of the role that regional institutions can play in implementing the responsibility to protect. As noted by the Secretary-General noted in his 2011 report on The Role of Regional and Sub-Regional arrangements in Implementing the Responsibility to Protect, those that “are closer to the events on the ground may have access to more detailed information, may have a more nuanced understanding of the history and culture, may be more directly affected by the consequences of action taken or not taken, and may be critical to the implementation of decisions” at the global level.
Moreover, as noted by the Secretary-General, such regional actors have a responsibility under the second pillar of RtoP to assist Burundi to fulfill its protection obligations and protect populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. Therefore, the involvement of the EAC is laudable and necessary (if the outcome from the most recent meeting is somewhat wanting).
However, it is also important to remember that regional leaders have as often been part of the problem as part of the solution. Therefore, urgent attention needs to be paid to the regional dynamics of this crisis to avoid an escalation – and a regionalisation – of what is, at least for the moment, a distinctly Burundian crisis. In a troubled region where numerous conflict dynamics have been left hanging, there is significant potential for those in need of political bolstering to draw in others in a political tit for tat. With much tinder on the ground, the potential for conflict to spread around the region should neither be assumed nor ignored.
Read the full blog entry here.