Increasing instability and political repression in African Great Lakes Region

by Ann Garrison

KPFA Weekend News broadcast April 26, 2015

Instability and political repression are increasing in the Great Lakes Region of Africa, as the presidents of Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Rwanda seek to remain in power beyond constitutional term limits, and as Rwandan and Ugandan troops cross into Congo yet again.

Transcript

Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza accepts his party’s nomination for a third term, on April 25, 2015.
Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza accepts his party’s nomination for a third term, on April 25, 2015.

KPFA Evening News Anchor: Rwandan and Ugandan troops crossed into the Democratic Republic of the Congo this week, sparking fears of another catastrophic regional war. Burundi, a neighbor of both Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is another pressure point further destabilizing the region.

Ten to 15,000 refugees have fled from Burundi to Rwanda, fearing violence caused by Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to ignore constitutional term limits and seek a third term in power. KPFA’s Ann Garrison has more.

KPFA/Ann Garrison: Political repression is escalating in Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where all three presidents have made moves to remain in power past term limits, as Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni has for almost 30 years. Yesterday, Burundi’s Nkurunziza formally announced that he’s running again, and today police were reported to be firing live ammunition into street protests called in response.

This young man spoke to the BBC in the streets of Birundi’s capital, Bujumbura.

Street protestor: Three hours ago, a young man has been killed. The youth doesn’t have jobs. We don’t have jobs. We don’t have anything. So the reason why we are here is to protest this third mandate for the president. That’s why we’re here.

Burundian police disperse protestors with tear gas in Bujumbura, Burundi, on April 26, the day after President Nkurunziza’s party nominated him for a third term.
Burundian police disperse protestors with tear gas in Bujumbura, Burundi, on April 26, the day after President Nkurunziza’s party nominated him for a third term.

KPFA: Yesterday, at his party’s nominating convention, President Pierre Nkurunziza warned his opponents against resisting.

Nkurunziza: The ruling party is like a wall. If you throw a ball at it, it will bounce back and hit you in the face.

KPFA: It was also reported this week that both Rwandan and Ugandan troops had crossed the border into DR Congo, where they have a long history of plundering mineral resources and even timber reserves. This stirred fear of another catastrophic regional war like the First and Second Congo Wars of 1996 to 2003, which drew in all nine countries bordering DR Congo.

Those wars began when Rwandan, Ugandan and Burundian troops invaded DR Congo in 1996, and, after a peace treaty was signed in 2003, proxy militias for Uganda and Rwanda continued the conflict in Congo’s mineral rich East. Ugandan and Rwandan troops were also, at times, allowed to cross the border with U.S. and U.N. blessing.

Rwandan troops crossed into Congo in the disastrous and unsuccessful 2009 operation to wipe out the Rwandan refugee militia known as the FDLR. Ugandan troops crossed into Congo in the equally disastrous and unsuccessful 2009-2010 operation to hunt down warlord Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army.

Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza, DR Congo’s President Joseph Kabila and Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame
Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza, DR Congo’s President Joseph Kabila and Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame

Another regional war could make it easier for Rwanda’s President Kagame, Burundi’s President Nkurunziza, DR Congo’s President Kabila and Uganda’s President Museveni to cling to power.

The U.S. is the dominant military power in the region, as it is everywhere, and it has great strategic interest in DR Congo’s mineral reserves. U.S. responses will therefore be closely watched by all concerned.

In Berkeley for Pacifica, KPFA, and AfrobeatRadio, I’m Ann Garrison.

Oakland writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Black Agenda Report, Black Star News, Counterpunch, Colored Opinions and her own website, Ann Garrison, and produces for AfrobeatRadio on WBAI-NYC, KPFA Evening News, KPFA Flashpoints and for her own YouTube Channel, AnnieGetYourGang. She can be reached at anniegarrison@gmail.com. In March 2014 she was awarded the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for promoting peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa through her reporting.