International actors have long been impatient for an end to war in Burundi. Their general preference for stability is heightened in this case by the ever-present shadow of the genocide in Rwanda—demographically a near match to Burundi, though with a very different history—and by the awareness of past large-scale killings on an ethnic basis in Burundi itself.274 Yet they hope to arrive at peace with minimal investment of resources and most balked even at paying for the troops provided by African countries. Quick to condemn violations of international law, donor governments and international organizations nonetheless accepted without protest a virtual amnesty for such crimes in exchange for an agreement that may last no longer than previous ones.
When the Arusha Accords were signed, the United Nations was expected to play a leading role in the peace process, both by providing a peacekeeping force and by helping to deliver justice through an international commission of inquiry and probably an international tribunal. Unwilling to provide troops for what looked to be a risky, costly and probably lengthy operation, the UN handed over responsibility for peacekeeping to the African Union, at least for the immediate future. Virtually certain not to establish an international tribunal, the Security Council dithered even over creating the international commission of inquiry meant to establish whether the crimes committed in Burundi after 1962 constituted genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. The council in effect ignored a formal request for such a commission from the Burundian government in July 2002 and was prodded into action only by the insistence of all the Burundian parties who met a Security Council delegation visiting the country in June 2003. But by early November 2003, the Security Council members had not yet agreed on the terms of reference for a preliminary assessment mission that would evaluate the feasibility of a commission of inquiry, far less decided on a deadline for submission of its report.275 The establishment of the commission of investigation, the execution of its delicate task of gathering and analysing evidence will necessarily take many months. By agreeing to provisional immunity, the signatories to the Pretoria Protocol showed that they could not be relied on to deliver justice for all the horrendous crimes committed in recent years. The burden on the international community to ensure justice and to do so promptly is all the greater. Unless the Security Council gives priority to the investigatory commission and any ensuing forms of judicial action that it recommends, Burundians will be left with only their grief and their anger, fertile ground for spawning new conflict.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, the late Sergio Viera de Mello, went to Burundi in March and underlined the importance of ending impunity for serious violations of international humanitarian law. He said, “All who commit particularly grave human rights violations should remember that justice will be done, even if that takes time.”276 The special rapporteur for Burundi, who often denounced violations in the past, visited Burundi in May and made her own inquiries into the killings at Kabezi.
The field office of the High Commissioner, long present in Burundi, did not regularly publish reports of its work. It recently began publishing reports of its activities as part of a general quarterly report issued by the High Commissioner. This new practice may help draw more attention to critical human rights problems.
Initially relatively inactive, the IMC began to play a more visible role in October 2003. It strongly criticized the Burundian government for “lack of political will” in failing to implement the recommendations of the international expert commission report of 2002, including the release of political prisoners, the provisional release of persons detained longer than six years, the paroling of persons who had served more than one-quarter of their sentences, and the release of those detained in irregular circumstances, the elderly and those seriously ill. The IMC also urged all parties to the conflict to protect civilians in accord with international law. It insisted that the parties also meet their obligations to provide the JCC with figures on the size of their forces so that planning for demobilization could proceed.277
Under the leadership of South Africa, the African Union transformed the already existing South African force in Burundi for the protection of politicians into a larger peacekeeping force. The United States and the United Kingdom provided more than $6 million each to assist in the deployment of Ethiopian and Mozambican troops for the AMIB force and the European Commission has pledged to deliver some $25 million if other donors can be found to give enough to make the force operational. At the beginning of November 2003 no other donors had come forward, leaving the AMIB force with at most $37 million at its disposal out of a total budget of $120 million. 278
South Africa also took the lead in carrying forward negotiations that resulted in the Pretoria Protocols. Deputy President Jacob Zuma, the primary facilitator, expressed satisfaction with the results of the negotiation, saying “This is an agreement you can defend, own, and implement.”279 He made no mention of the provisional immunity granted to forces for crimes committed during the war. South Africa had been facing major expenses for its troops in Burundi and, with no expectation of outside assistance, foresaw a continuing drain on its resources until a peace deal was struck. With the official end to combat between the government and the FDD, the South African foreign minister promptly contacted UN SecurityCouncil members to ask them to take over peace-keeping responsibilities in Burundi.280
In their eagerness for peace, donors accepted the façade of the peace process without openly dealing with the many signs of continuing combat. The result was that the Burundian government reaped some of the rewards of peace even as it fought the war. The World Bank provided U.S. $650,000 for cantonment in anticipation of the multi-country demobilization program and without any effective national plan for demobilization being ready. Stating that Burundi had been moving towards political normalcy since the conclusion of the Arusha Agreement, the International Monetary Fund in May provided US $13 million as the second part of its “post-conflict” assistance--even though the war continued.281
The EU funded several initiatives meant to further the peace process but that produced little real progress. In December 2002 it supplied funds to pay for the distribution of food to FDD combatants as a way of supporting the apparent progress made with the early December ceasefire agreement. The distribution program was disrupted by resumed combat and finally was criticized even by the Burundian military who had originally favored it. The EU also paid for the forty-six observers of the AMIB who arrived in February 2002, but the mandate of the observers was not clear—human rights, in any case, were not included—and the observers remained confined to urban centers because of security problems.
A European Parliament delegation in June 2003 remarked that cantonment seemed not to be working advised that funds from the Fonds Européen de Développement be used to pay part of the cost of the AMIB, and suggested that closer control of the arms traffic was needed, as was greater pressure on the rebel groups to disarm.
Quick to deplore civilian casualties from combat, the EU at the time of the attack on Bujumbura exhorted all belligerents to “ensure the security of the population that has already suffered too much.”282 It also firmly denounced the Itaba massacre of September 2002 although its later criticism of the sham trial of officers accused of leading this massacre was neither prompt nor strong.283 As of mid-November, the EU had made no comment on the provisional immunity guaranteed by the Pretoria Protocols.
The United States provided relatively little monetary aid to Burundi in recent years, but did contribute some $6 million to equipping the Ethiopian soldiers in AMIB. The U.S. ambassador in Bujumbura was active in promoting negotiations between the belligerent parties and one State Department official said the U.S. was extremely satisfied with the Pretoria Protocol. The U.S. made no public comment on its provision of temporary immunity from prosecution for war crimes. According tothe StateDepartment official, this provision was seen as “necessary for the greater good” of ending combat between the FDD and the Burundian government.284
This readiness to accept provisional immunity without comment contrasts with the promptness of U.S. criticism of the sadly inadequate trial of the military officers accused in the Itaba case. In February 2003 the US embassy in Bujumbura issued a statement expressing “great disappointment” at the “failure” of the Transitional Government to punish those responsible for this massacre.285
274 Human Rights Watch interview, Brussels, March 6, 2003.
275 Human Rights Watch interviews with several members of the Security Council, Bujumbura, June 12 and 13, 2003; interviews by telephone to New York and Washington, October 30, 2003.
276 Radio Isangiro, news broadcast, March 3, 2003; IRIN, “UN Rights Commissioner urges implementation of peace agreement,” March 4, 2003.
277 IRIN, “IMC slams detention of political prisoners, poor prison conditions,” October 7, 2003.
278 Human Rights Watch interview, Bujumbura, September 4, 2003.
279 Xinhuanet, “Burundi peace agreement signed in S. Africa, November 2, 2003.
280 Reuters, “Burundi says signs final peace deal with rebels,” November 3, 2003; News24SA, “SA troops in Burundi ‘costly,’” November 2, 2003.
281 International Monetary Fund, Press Release, “IMF Approves US$13 Million in Post-Conflict Emergency Assistance to Burundi,” May 5, 2003; Human Rights Watch interview with representative of the World Bank, Bujumbura, June 19, 2003.
282 European Union, Declaration of the Presidency, July 10, 2003.
283 European Union, Declaration of the Presidency, September 25, 2002 and March 6, 2003.
284 Human Rights Watch interview by telephone to Washington, D.C., November 5, 2003.
285 Embassy of the United States in Bujumbura, Press release, February 26, 2003.