Small States in an Unstable Region--Rwanda and Burundi, 1999-2000

Small States in an Unstable Region--Rwanda and Burundi, 1999-2000

Small States in an Unstable Region--Rwanda and Burundi, 1999-2000

Small States in an Unstable Region--Rwanda and Burundi, 1999-2000

Synopsis

Filip Reyntjens is a Professor of Law and Politics at the Institute of Development Policy and Management, University of Antwerp.

Excerpt

While in Burundi there has been a continuity in the evolution of the political situation, Rwanda has been the site of considerable changes which are only the visible aspect of a serious political crisis. Since 2000, the replacement of the President of the National Assembly, the Prime Minister and the President of the Republic, may appear to be spectacular events in their own right, but they hint at a deeper conflict, which goes to the very heart of the regime. the rift between the Tutsi survivors of the genocide which was already perceptible last year is now open, and even within the ranks of the various components of the old diaspora that returned after the rpf victory in 1994, opposition is expressed increasingly openly. Also within the army, which seemed to be the pillar of the regime, coherence is no longer ensured; there were rumours of a coup d'état, military personnel were arrested, the army was stuck in the protracted war in the Congo, and the perception of favouritism caused resentment and frustrations.

Burundi remains committed to the Arusha peace talks, now directed by Nelson Mandela following the death of Julius Nyerere. It is not certain that the change in style effected by the new facilitator is likely to increase the chances of achieving an accord; moreover, the continual political realignments which are a Burundian speciality and the rejection of any form of compromise by an active and powerful Tutsi minority in Bujumbura constitute considerable handicaps to a negotiated solution.

The regional context, characterised by shifting alliances and wars waged extraterritorially, impacts heavily on the internal evolution of both countries. the Rwandan and Burundian armies fight on the side of the rebel coalition in the Congo; rebel groups seize the opportunities offered by their inclusion in the alliance supporting Kabila; the strategies and the balance of forces change according to the military situation. a further factor since mid-1999 is the deepening rift between Rwanda and Uganda—a very dangerous development which could lead to a full-scale war between these two countries. Rwanda is already faced with a serious internal crisis and could find itself isolated, fragile and confronted with the risk of a violent implosion.

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