How Kagame Met His Sixth Defeat Over Burundi -Now That He Is Tamed, Burundi Can Address Its Problems

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By Dr David Himbara

Rwandan president Paul Kagame could be said to suffer from “schadenfreude” which literally means “harm-joy” in German. The term refers to pleasure derived from other people’s misfortune. An English equivalent might be “to gloat” at another person’s difficulty or failure. Kagame’s schadenfreude is most recently illustrated by his aggressive trumpeting the Burundian crisis while maneuvering to become the solution-provider and savior of the sister state. First, Kagame appointed himself a spokesperson for Burundian people, gloating and asserting that their president, Pierre Nkurunziza, had let them down by failing to improve lives during his term in office.

Next, Kagame tried to use his most favorite card — genocide. Lionizing himself as supreme leader and savior of the Tutsi community in the broader Great Lakes Region, he claimed genocide was taking place in Burundi. And that only external intervention guided by himself would save the country from itself.

Third, when the United Nations Group of Experts presented evidence that Rwanda was arming Burundian refugees to destabilize their homeland, Kagame turned to his other favorite tool — intimidation of the international community to divert attention from his crude scheming. Kagame announced that Rwanda would expel Burundian refugees if the international community did not get them off the Rwandan territory.

Kagame’s games got him nowhere. He has met at least six defeats in the past six months.

  1. The African Union’s 5,000-strong peacekeeping force that was to intervene in Burundi was a nonstarter. Kagame and the like-minds in the African Union (AU) that had hatched this plot did so without involving any Burundian stakeholders. The plotters had arrogantly assumed Burundi would roll the red carpet — but Burundi deemed the AU intervention as an invasion, and that was the end of it.
  2. Working with friendly countries, namely, South Africa and Tanzania, a breakthrough was made, with Burundi agreeing to host AU’s 100 human rights observers and 100 military monitors. The combination of South Africa and Tanzania almost always spells doom for Kagame — these same two countries defeated and dismantled his M23 back in 2012.
  3. Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni, hardly a role model of democracy and good governance, remains the mediator for Burundi but not a facilitator. He has been replaced by a neutral and credible facilitator, namely, former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa. This is an additional blow to Kagame as his mentor, Museveni, no longer has a hand in Burundian affairs.
  4. The international community ignored Kagame’s threat to expel Burundian refugees. So far Kagame has not done the unthinkable of abusing the United Nations convention on hosting refugees. Kagame might have hoped to get the same results as in 2010 when the United Nations released the Congo Mapping Report that implicated him in mass killings and possibly committing genocide in that country. Kagame threatened to remove his peacekeeping soldiers from the United Nations’s operations — the Report was shelved.
  5. The arming of Burundi refugees in Rwanda was linked to an even bigger defeat for Kagame — the coup d’etat and insurgency leaders ended up in Rwanda confirming the fact that the Rwanda regime was part of the scheme to remove an elected government in Burundi. All of this fell flat.
  6. Kagame was handed his sixth defeat at the just concluded 17th Ordinary Summit of the East African Community (EAC) Heads of State in Arusha, Tanzania, on March 2, 2016.

Shockingly, Kagame and his officials led by Richard Sezibera, whose tenure as EAC Secretary General ends in April 2016, worked very hard to prevent Burundi from taking the chair of the Summit of Heads of State and EAC Secretary General position. Kenya appears to have been part of the scheme, opportunistically waiting in the wings to grab both positions. Kagame was afraid of sleeping in his own bed — he worried that if Burundi took these roles, President Nkurunziza would take a closer look at Rwanda’s machinations against Burundi.

The Kagame maneuverings failed badly. Tanzania’s President John Pombe Magufuli who temporarily remains Chair of the Summit of Heads of State, while Burundi sorts itself out, insisted on, nonetheless, following the letter and spirit of the EAC treaty. According to the treaty EAC Secretary General is a five-year rotational position. And it is Burundi’s turn. Meet the new EAC Secretary General — Burundian Liberat Mfumukeko.

 About the author:
David Himbara is an educator, political economist, and author based in Toronto, Canada. He teaches and works in the field of development and competitiveness.
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