19 Dec 2015 – A statement on the Burundi crisis from the Aegis Trust and STAND: the Student-Led Movement to End Mass Atrocities

Following the 13 November statement by Aegis Trust regarding the responsibility to protect civilians in Burundi, we agree with the United Nations human rights chief Zeid Raad al-Hussein that, in regard to the threat of mass atrocities to civilians there, “the time for piecemeal responses and fiddling around the edges is over”.

The leadership shown by the African Union this week (Thursday 17 December) is welcome and we urge the Government of Burundi to accept without delay the AU offer to help ensure the security and protection of Burundi’s citizens with provision of a 5,000-strong peacekeeping force.

In 2000, the landmark OAU report ‘Rwanda: The Preventable Genocide’ lamented the lack of timely regional and international response to the violence in the lead up to that catastrophe in 1994.  Since that report, the AU – the successor to the OAU – has commendably developed structures, policies and capacity to respond to threats against civilians, in an effort to make ‘Never Again’ more than a slogan.

The East African Community efforts at political mediation are failing and while protection of civilians must now be the priority, there is also an urgent need for both EAC and other African States to bring all influence to bear in support of a positive political process in Burundi.

While the AU is rightfully taking a lead on the international response to the crisis in Burundi the Responsibility to Protect rests not only with regional countries in Africa, but with the national government and the wider international community too.

The robust monitoring mission proposed by the UN Human Rights Council should be welcomed in Bujumbura, to emphasize how the Government of Burundi is committed to accountability for crimes committed against civilians, while the political crisis is managed.

Speaking in Rwanda on 16 December, ahead of a planned visit to Burundi, UK Minister for Africa James Duddridge expressed British support for AU efforts and said the international community would not stand by and let the crisis escalate. His comments, and his presence in the region at this time, are a welcome sign of commitment from the British Government to supporting resolution of this crisis.

Along with the UK other members of the UN Security Council, and countries across the World, should use all diplomatic, humanitarian and security measures available to support the AU in assisting the Government of Burundi to fulfil its responsibility to protect its own citizens.