Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa: “Only dialogue will end the crisis in Burundi”
Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa is a leading figure in the fight for human rights in Burundi. During a recent trip to Geneva, he shared his thoughts on the current situation.
TRIAL: You are in Geneva for the United Nations Human Rights Council. What are your impressions so far?
Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa: I am glad to see the interest in the situation in Burundi. Twenty-three States have made comments, and among these no less than 20 condemned the government’s actions.
Unfortunately, I have taken part in several Human Rights Councils and I know that action will not follow up for a long time. I am sorry that the UN seems helpless in the face of a country as tiny as Burundi.
How do you explain this?
The United Nations is reluctant to play an active role. It wants to delegate this role to regional institutions, such as the African Union. However, African Heads of State suffer from the same ills as Pierre Nkurunziza: they want to cling to power forever by any means possible.
My fear is that stalled discussions will cause victims and refugees to lose patience and resort to violence. This could inflame an already precarious situation, and at that point it will be much more difficult for the UN to restore calm.
As things stand, how do we end the crisis?
Government representatives must definitely return to the negotiating table. My country has known other crises in the past: it was always through dialogue that we pulled through.
Pierre Nkurunziza himself came to power thanks to negotiations, in this case the Arusha Agreements, which put an end to the civil war. Our leaders should remember that war benefits no one.
Like many other human rights defenders, you have been forced into exile. Do you keep in touch with your fellow countrymen?
Yes, every day. Thanks to social media, we can share information, photos and videos that could constitute evidence. Burundi is a small country, everybody knows each other, and our network keeps growing.
The Burundian diaspora has an important role to play. Residing outside the country, I can testify before the international community.
What is your message to the Burundian victims and refugees?
I ask them to be patient. I understand their frustration, but resorting to violence will only make matters worse. Let’s remember the lessons of our history: only dialogue will end the crisis.