When people hear about Hutu-Tutsi genocides, they immediately think about Rwanda. It is true that the most important one took place there. But people tend to forget that its neighbour country, Burundi, has the same problem with those two social groups. There have been two genocides, one in 1972 and one in 1993. Now it seems that a third one is on its way.
Since it became independent from Belgium in 1962, there have been many tensions between those two ethnicities. The majority of the country’s population being Hutu but the government being Tutsi was always a source of tension. In 1972 a Hutu killed between 800 and 1.200 Tutsis. This led to the president proclaiming martial law and 80.000 to 120.000 Hutus being slaughtered by the Tutsi-dominated army. It is proven that the army had lists with the names of Hutu elites whom had to be killed first, before it turned against the less educated Hutu population. This lists made the killings “selective” and therefore making the whole thing a genocide, no matter what some people say.
After years spend under different military dictatorships, the country finally elected its first real president in 1993. Three months later the Hutu president was assassinated by Tutsi extremists. All over the country Hutus raised to kill Tutsis and the army, still dominated by the Tutsi, responded by killing Hutus. This ended in an extremely violent civil war, which finally ended in 2006. Since then the country has been more or less peaceful and got a lot of help from the United Nations, in order to rebuild the country that suffered from 12 years of civil war. In April 2015 the president declared that we was going to seek a third term in office, which he got in July. This behaviour being against the constitution, it led to demonstrations, a putsch attempt and rebellions all over the country.
The UN condemned the violence and human rights abuses committed by security forces, government supporters and the opposition. About 400 people died already and 3.500 are jailed. The UN as well as African officials are concerned the whole situation will escalate and end in another ethnic bloodshed. Government officials as well as members of the opposition are manipulating the population to create ethnic tensions between the Hutus and Tutsis. Therefore the risk of another genocide is there.
Ban Ki Moon, the secretary-general of the United Nations, said that Burundi is “on the brink of a civil war” and has send officials to monitor the violence. The African Union decided to send troops to protect civilians as they “will not allow a genocide”. Which the Burundian government is strictly opposed to. “We don’t need them” because “the government has been democratically elected”. The African Union however gave them 96 hours to cooperate or else they would send their troops.
The world holds its breath and waits to see what will happen. Will the African Union be forced to send their troops? Will the violence escalate? Will we assist another genocide? In that case, will they be able to stop it quickly or will they fail like it was the case for the Rwandan genocide? Only the future will tell us. Luckily the world is active and will use all possible ways to end the situation. Especially the African Union has the necessary means to prevent another civil war or a genocide. Burundi is on the edge of an escalation but it may possibly never come that far.