Politics

Benjamin Mkapa: Prisoner of EAC mediation?

The EAC Heads of State reaffirmed their support for mediation in the Burundian crisis. A mandate too many, some people say.

The summit calls on the protagonists to quickly conclude the dialogue with the facilitator and the mediator.

The summit calls on the protagonists to quickly conclude the dialogue with the facilitator and the mediator.

Mkapa remains in control. The facilitator in the Burundi conflict has received the support of the Heads of State of the sub-region. At the last summit held on 23 February in Kampala, Uganda, they promised funding and support to the former Tanzanian president.

Yet, this facilitation has difficulty to help find solution to the political crisis that Burundi has been experiencing after more than two years of exercise. Benjamin Mkapa is accused of impartiality and inability to conduct inter-Burundian talks. The real protagonists have never sat face to face to discuss real issues.

If there is the winner of the summit, it would surely be Bujumbura, the “bad pupil of the dialogue,” said Mkapa in his 2017 report. In Kampala, there hasn’t been any real reproach on the project to revise the Constitution, a process that worries the international community.

The Secretary General of the United Nations, as well as the European Union have already expressed “their concerns” in this regard.

Mkapa resignation was expected

For the civil society as well as the opposition, the concern was the “resignation of Mkapa” announced on social media. It sounded like a victory for them, probably tired of this facilitation. In their tweets, they hoped that with Mkapa resignation as the facilitator, the African Union could finally take over the management of the crisis and stop hiding behind the principle of subsidiarity. The chairman of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, said it again recently.

“The file is currently in the hands of the EAC”.

At the end of the summit, there was no resignation of Mkapa, on the contrary. The Heads of state of the sub-region congratulated themselves on the step taken and reiterated their support for the mediation of the Ugandan President and the facilitation led by Benjamin Mkapa. The summit called on all parties to conclude the dialogue quickly. All in all, those who were hoping for a change will have to wait.

The big challenge for Mkapa will be to convene the next session that will bring together the real protagonists. He must organize a one-to-one debate between them, something which is very much expected.
The other unknown that adds to the equation is that of the constitutional revision. The former

Tanzanian president will have to contend with this challenge, one of the key points of divergence raised by the protagonists in the last round of talks.


Reactions

Gaston SindimwoGaston Sindimwo: “Government willing to go with the facilitation”

The First Vice President of the Republic appreciates the work of Mkapa “even if some wanted him to resign”. According to him, the Heads of State of the sub-region appreciate the security situation which is under control as well as the massive registration of the soon-voting population. He assures that the government is willing to accompany the facilitation in its process of peace talks. Gaston Sindimwo believes that the draft revision of the Constitution will continue in parallel with the talks. “See how long the dialogue between Israel and Palestine has been taking.”

Jean-Minani-600x477Jean Minani: “Connivance of EAC Heads of State with Bujumbura”

For the chairman of CNARED, the opposition platform in exile, the conclusion is clear: the mediation failed and the reasons for this failure is a team of weak facilitation without expertise and easily manipulated by Bujumbura, the total refusal of the power in place to negotiate as well as the lack of will of the Heads of State of the EAC. “They rather give a bad impression of connivance with Bujumbura.

Jean Minani believes that with the threat of resignation of Mkapa, the Heads of State of the EAC will demand an immediate end of the referendum. “If the EAC mediation fails, the UN and the EU must quickly take the matters into their own hands without even consulting the EAC.” Otherwise, Jean Minani predicts the most dramatic evolution of a chaos in all the countries of the sub-region.

Agathon-Rwasa-600x451Agathon Rwasa: “Indifference of EAC Heads of State”

The First Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly notes the failure of the facilitation. Nevertheless, he condemns the lack of will of the Heads of State of the sub-region. “They have the means to put pressure on Bujumbura but they have opted for indifference to what the people endure. For Agathon Rwasa, the solution lies in the hands of Burundians themselves.

Beyond the calculations of some, with abject poverty and the isolation of the country, one should ask the question of “who benefits from this and who loses”.

Sylvestre NtibantunganyaSylvestre Ntibantunganya: “To each one their responsibilities”

The former President of the Republic believes that the Heads of State of the sub-region have given the facilitation pledges that allow him to no longer think about the facilitator’s resignation. Sylvestre Ntibantunganya believes that one must wait to see the new initiatives that will be taken by Mkapa to judge the effectiveness of his work. Nevertheless, according to him, each Burundian must take their responsibilities to find at their level what must be done to end the crisis. “It would help the facilitation in its work.”


Analysis

Mkapa mediation is no longer useful

Thierry Vircoulon, Senior Consultant of Central Africa at the International Crisis Group, ensures that the mediation of Mkapa has not produced anything concrete in the past two years. According to the analyst, none of the necessary conditions for mediation have been met: the government party does not recognize the legitimacy of the opposition, the situation on the ground is clearly in favor of the regime of President Nkurunziza and the mediation organization (the EAC) is not neutral in this crisis.

For Thierry Vircoulon, this mediation still had two advantages: it allowed the regime of Nkurunziza to gain time to get strong again after the unrest in 2015. It also allowed the United Nations, the African Union and some Western diplomacy to get rid of the Burundian crisis by applying the principle of “African solutions to
African problems”.

In conclusion, the analyst believes that the mediation of Mkapa is no longer useful except to save diplomatic appearances in a situation where the intransigence of the regime prohibits any other mediator. The stalemate is total: “It is not known whether it is Benjamin Mkapa who controls the facilitation of the EAC or he is the prisoner of the mediation of the EAC”.

 

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