Beneath his granite appearance, Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurinziza must be boiling over at the idea of a possible deployment of African Union troops to his unsettled country.
Nkurinziza’s troops have been deployed in Somalia since 2007 and play an integral part in AMISOM, an African Union force fighting an Islamist extremist insurgence in that country. In July, shortly after he re-grabbed the reins of power despite a tidal wave of international criticism, Nkurinziza subtly threatened to pull his 5,000 strong-troop out of Somalia.
At this point, it is an obligation for post-election institutions to sit and reflect
“At this point, it is an obligation for post-election institutions to sit and reflect, in consultation with all parties concerned and following the outcome, if we must continue this mission,” he said then.
Might the man, who appears to take his sartorial cues from Barack Obama, be so stubborn so as not to see the consequences? Nkurunzinza should have stepped down after the end of his last term, but he argued that he deserved another term as he had not been popularly elected in his first term, so it shouldn’t be counted. His critics argue that this was a clandestine way to secure himself a third term – and decry his ‘faulty’ counting skills.
Hundreds have died, thousands more displaced, human rights bulldozed in the quest for power. Some call him the pastor, being of devout “born-again” evangelical Christian stock. His mind-boggling calculation skills may be his way of convincing himself that he has not flouted at least three of the 10 commandments [covet, steal, lie].
But is it really a miscalculation when one stops to reconsider his underground nickname: Le Boucher de Bujumbura (the Butcher of Bujumbura). To quote a recent article in a francophone newspaper: “His suicidal stubbornness has led him to the point of no return. And under these conditions, a civil war looks like good fortune for him”.
But the Butcher is not going down well at the AU, which is looking ever more likely to unleash its peacekeepers to deal with the increasingly bloody environment.
Nonetheless, Nkurinziza’s could have an ally at the top of the African Union, with Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe steering the ship. The 92 year-old Mugabe has been in power since his country gained its independence in 1980. He, surely, will appreciate an attempt to hold on no matter the costs.
But Mugabe has only a week to go as chairperson of the African Union. As the killings continue in Burundi, can the African Union soon force the Butcher out of business?