Burundi is heading toward civil conflict and there is little to almost nothing the United Nations can do to prevent that from happening.
As per a confidential memo written by the organization's peacekeeping chief to the Security Council, there isn’t much the U.N. can do if the ongoing violence in the central African nation spirals into an all-out war.
“Signed by Herve Ladsous, head of the U.N.'s Department of Peacekeeping (DPKO), the memo envisions various scenarios in Burundi, ranging from continued sporadic violence to genocide-type situations, as well as possible U.N. deployments in the country,” VICE News reported.
The news comes a few weeks after the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, warned Burundi is on the “very cusp” of a civil war that could also trigger ethnic violence in neighboring countries.
There is a lot of debate as to the nature of the conflict in Burundi. Some claim it has ethnic undertones and is edging toward genocide between Tutsis and Hutus, like the 1994 Rwandan genocide, during which as many as 800,000 Tutsis were killed.
However, others believe the brewing conflict is political since it’s being fought between police forces and people who oppose President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term in office. There are no ethnic disparities anymore because the Burundian armed forces, national and local government, parliament and the senate have equal Hutu and Tutsi representation.
In any case, even if genocide isn’t imminent, violence is widespread in the country; at least 400 people have been killed in Burundi since protests began in April against Nkurunziza’s third term in office, while an estimated 220,000 people have fled to neighboring states.
And the U.N. appears to be as helpless as ever.
The failure to prevent Rwandan genocide is something that haunts the U.N. to this day. If something similar happens in Burundi, one cannot help but wonder if the intergovernmental organization — which was in fact set up to prevent such territorial disputes — is effective at all.