Author: ritva gahimbare – Contributor
If you have watched the movie “The last King of Scotland,” based on the events of the dictatorial reign of Idi Amin Dada, leader of Uganda from 1971 to 1979, then you will be able to fancy the dire scenario of a country ruled with tyranny and cruelty. This scenario is currently happening in Burundi, a country in East Africa bordered by Rwanda to the North. This tiny country of the Great Lakes region has been a battlefield of confrontations between two major ethnic groups for decades. The current decade-long civil war originated from the President’s decision to run a third term in office, despite the fact that his action is breaching the Arusha accord, the foundation of the Burundian constitution since its first democratic election in 2000. Protesters against this controversial third term have been repressed with heinous cruelty: arbitrary detention, tortures, and assassinations have been their fate. Private medias have been shut down and destroyed. Journalists, leaders of opposition and members of civil society persecuted by the regime have fled the country. Thousands of Burundians refugees have left the country seeking for secure shores in neighboring countries. According to the UNHCR statistics as of Oct. 15, 218,160 Burundians have fled their country since April 2015. The international community comprised of the European Union, USA, and The East African Community have attempted to convince Peter Nkurunziza, the President, to give up with his unlawful electoral pursuit with no success. Nonetheless, massacres are ongoing within the country.
I want to examine the challenging notion of the limit and responsibility on the international community to intervene in a conflict that is destroying a whole country while threatening the security of its own people. It is astonishing to see how the troubling memories of the holocaust and the despotism of Hitler, which inspired the conception of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are not binding enough to trigger the humanitarian action for countries within this world. Despite the existence of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which member states complied with co-operation with the United Nations for the promotion, respect and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the diplomatic approach taken by world leaders illustrates their lack of assertive action which could limit the scopes of conflicts.
The case of Syria is an outstanding example. The conflict in Syria began in 2011 with the thriving movement of the Arab spring: every revolution starts with people peacefully demanding for respect of their political and economic rights; and despotic leaders stifle revolution the same way as if it was a crusade against their own enemy. The Syrian crisis has been persistent for four years, and diplomatic endeavors from many global leaders followed by economic sanctions did not put an end to the rise of violence, that turned into a civil war that has flooded millions of refugees in neighboring countries of Syria and now mainly in the European countries. It is without any surprise that there is a recrudescence of headlines on world news mediums regarding the Syrian conflict since the crisis encroached on foreign states with massive migrations of refugees. How far are global leaders committed to strive for the respect of the sacred and inherent value of life under the diverse umbrella of the United Nations? Even though we are in the era of globalization, when it comes to human rights, suddenly the rules of globalization are interpreted differently. We need a synergic engagement from the international community, the same solidarity that enabled the foundation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to prevent or undermine the emergence of another disaster.
The repercussions of these conflicts in Canada are several: the management and the funding of the refugee resettlement program would be a federal issue. Moreover, when dire and important crises arise, immigrants, in a sign of solidarity to the raging conflict in their home country send more money than usual to the economy of the affected country because their economy is severely struck down by the political turmoil.
You may wonder how a student coming from these countries deal with the stress of a war ravaging his/her country: well, feelings of powerlessness, sorrow, and guilt to live in a safety that others lack are overwhelming. You barely understand how the rest of the world can still possibly function and you are immensely grateful to not sleep on the sound of guns and grenades.