International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Political Violence in Burundi

A situation that has not yet been discussed either in lecture or on the blog is the political violence that has occurred in recent years in the nation of Burundi.

Similarly to Syria, Cote D’Ivoire, and Libya, Burundi has experienced a series of on-and-off again violence after a civil war about a decade ago. There has been a cycle of violence and counter-violence between the opposition and the government and, most recently, a group of armed men killed 39 civilians in a bar in Gatumba last September. There have also been more and more political assassinations  and forced disappearances over the past year.

Both the government and the opposition have been unwilling to negotiate with each other. Burundi’s government has created a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a Human Rights body to investigate abuses, but neither have been particularly effective and many specialists don’t have hope that they will do anything to improve the situation. World Affairs Journal provides more background of the situation here: http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/blog/elizabeth-dickinson/burundi-political-violence-halts-progress

Additionally, a conference that occurred in Geneva last week was meant to discuss various recommendations for the protection of human rights in Burundi. Human Rights Watch published an article on this conference, saying that because of the absence of justice and the continued impunity for perpetrators of these crimes, there has been little hope for peace in recent years. 

Is this a situation where the international community has a duty to step in? Do you think this case could ever be referred to the ICC? While the government of Burundi has made some efforts to secure human rights,  Burundi almost always ranks at the bottom of the UN Human Development Index  and probably does not have the resources to conduct trials of their own. Additionally, because the government has also been involved in the violence it is questionable as to whether they could provide fair trials. Burundi is an extremely small and politically insignificant country in Africa, as far as the West is concerned, so does the lack of attention and the absence of a push for justice in Burundi support the argument that the ICC is too politicized and controlled by the interests of the UNSC member nations?

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