Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Propaganda War Against Burundi's FNL

Who is responsable for the massacre in Gatumba in september is the central question in Burundi news these days. When you think of it, it's amazing that in August Willy Nzisabira's hitpiece against hutus made it to the website of the Royal African Society in the middle of a large scale assassination operation against Burundi's FNL. What is the role of the Rwandan Patriotic Front in this operation? How to separate propaganda from facts? Howard Wolpe said:
"the conflict between Tutsi and Hutu in Burundi, as in Rwanda, is at the heart of Central African regional instability, producing massive refugee flows, insurgencies, and cross-border violence."
Yes and no. Events in Rwanda, Burundi and Congo are often linked but can't all be reduced to a tutsi-hutu conflict.
In light of the massive propaganda campaign against Paul Rusesabagina a phrase written by Maria Kaitesi on the website of The New Times struck me as ironic:
"Media practitioners have been urged to always be mindful of information they disseminate as it can be destructive."
Yesterday Human Rights Watch wrote:
"Burundi government officials should halt their intensifying pressure on journalists"
November 17th Reporters Without Borders appealed to the government of President Pierre Nkurunziza to call a halt to the intensified efforts to intimidate privately-owned media organizations in Burundi, which have been subjected to daily summonses and cautions.

Who is responsable for the september massacre in Gatumba is the central question in Burundi news these days.  Many start to think it's people inside the Burundi government who are responsable. First of november Gratien Rukindikiza wrote a valuable report on the Gatumba massacre. The FNL denies involvement on it's website.The Burundi political party CNP writes about the killing of an opposition party member last week (beheaded).

October 14th in Washington DC at a conference with Mario Otero at the Brookings institute the leader of the FNL, Agnathon Rwasa, was accused of an assassination in Congo 

On october 22, one day before Carson arrived in Rwanda to meet it's president, Paul Kagame said:
"Also posing a threat to regional security are the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), the Lord Resistance Army (LRA) and the Front Nationale Pour la Liberation (FNL) in Burundi."
This was the first time Paul Kagame mentioned explicitly the Burundian FNL of Agnathon Rwasa in this context.  We can safely conclude that the RPF stands firmly behind the ongoing assassination campaign of FNL members. Was the Rwandan Patriotic Front involved in the planning of this large scale operation?


Anonymous said...


I think a more interesting question is why does the FNL exist at all? What is their particular grievance?

Sometimes I think the solution to the whole "Hutu/Tutsi" dilemna that has cause so much unending and brutal violence really is something akin to the "two state solution" we see in Israel and Pakistan.

So, Rwanda should be home to the Tutsi's- all of them and from every country. Burundi should be home to the Hutu. Put up a demarcated line like the one dividing Cyprus and or North/South Korea and just call it a day.

It is just clear to outside observers like myself that this is the only way to bring an end to a 500 year cycle of rule/kill rule/kill rule/kill that has been the history between these two groups that are filled with such burning hatred for each other.

The last 50 years have proven the two groups CANNOT live together under ANY dispensation.



Vincent Harris said...

There is off course more to the violence in Burundi then interethnic grievances.

I will look into the FNL one of these days.

A two state solution would just push the can further down the road in my opinion.

Paul Rusesabagina and former US Ambassador to Burundi, Robert Krueger, advocate truth and reconciliation in the great lakes region as in South Africa.

Sofar the debate on Rwanda, Congo and Burundi has been dominated by

- either the collective (and one-sided) demonization of hutus which gave cover to the multiple military operations against hutu rebel organisations and the lack of political space in Rwanda (and Burundi).

- or the push for economic development.

I found an example of this yesterday:

Gerard van Mourik, a communications for development consultant at UNICEF who also worked as Head of GFATM program in Southern Sudan at UNDP claimed on twitter yesterday: "@ajboekestijn Meer economische ontwikkeling in Afrika betekent minder genocide." which translates as "more economic development in Africa means less genocide".

Concerning muslim fundamentalism some people sometimes argue the same thing. More development in muslim countries means less extremism. When we look at Saudi Arabia and 9/11 I don't think it's the full explanation.

Creating "homelands" for tutsi's and hutu's sounds a lot like apartheid. Didn't sound like a sustainable solution then, it doesn't know.

Anonymous said...

good rebuttal.

what about swiss-style federations?

so, let the national government just take care of borders, the army, the money/finances, international relations and then let provinces do the rest. the provinces can even have a "president" and assemblies and pass whatever laws they like. you could have provinces that are all tutsi, all hutu, tutsi-dominated, hutu-dominated, or a mix of both.

and its already a known fact decentralization aids development.

then perhaps each province elects 2 people each to a Senate- one hutu, one tutsi, one man, one woman.

then the Senate elects a 10 member Cabinet, half men, half women, half Tutsi, half Hutu, to run the government.

then the Cabinet rotates among themselves who will be head of state.

when the warring French, Germans, and Italians came up with the Old Swiss Confederacy, which then evolved into the current one, peace ,neutrality, and development reigned and has so til this very day. the swiss, ofcourse, are the richest people on the planet.

same thing happened with the Iroquois Confederacy with native tribes in Northeast America.

I just don't buy the "its economic development, stupid" approach primarily because of the old chicken and egg dilemna:

- development requires a strong state with committed leaders.
- but committed leaders need to actually BE committed and not constantly worrying about being overthrown by a rebellion, which focuses their energy on consolidating power and thus imperiling development.

there is ofcourse Kagame's "Singapore" model- which is really the Franco model given Spain set the standard- which obviously has its problems.

development and the great lakes is such a clusterfuck!

Anonymous said...

Ok, having spent considerable time researching the FNL I am totally convinced its leadership either need to be killed or captured.

here's the wiki article on the leader, Agathe: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agathon_Rwasa

It appears the leadership's "beef" or "grievance" is that they wish to avoid prosecution from their remarkable savagery.

No beans, I say. You encourage your folks to recruit kids and kill Catholic prelates and you need to pay. I could, perhaps, see their grips if this was Rwanda and Hutu's are oppressed but that is NOT the case in Burundi given the rigid affirmative action policies in place.

It just seems to me that all these rebel groups want to come up with excuse after excuse to destablize regimes. Sorry, but as the descendant of Union fighters in America's civil war we fought to end slavery and compel southerners to return to the Union. Those who resisted were shot, hanged, or jailed. End of Story. Burundi now has a functioning democracy so, in my mind, there is ZERO reason to take up a gun and machete. I've read a few FNL propagandist more or less say the problem is the democracy in Burundi doesn't "function well enough or the government is corrupt". Wow, so you decide not to participate and then have the gall to complain? Sorry, politics are for adults- not whining kids.

The FNL are criminals and sore losers and should simply be crushed.

Just sayin'


Vincent Harris said...

The FNL is a rebel organisation turned political party recognized by Burundi's government april 21 2009, similar to for example the CNDP in Congo.

The peace process in Burundi was between hutu-rebels and the tutsi-dominated army. Most parties had/have blood on their hands.

All opposition parties, not just the FNL, boycotted the presidential elections and claimed local elections were riggged.

Propaganda plays an important role in the great lakes politics as we see with the campaign against Rusesabagina.

Vincent Harris said...

Switzerland might be a good model, but is it replicable? We could also speak of the Dutch model where society was sharply divided in pillars through it's transition to democracy at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of twentieth century. But is it replicable? The history of Abraham Kuyper's Antirevolutionary party (neocalvinism), the first political party in the Netherlands is what I admire.

One thing I noticed in Dutch society is the enormous impact of world politics on domestic developments. The right for women to vote was passed in 1920 as I understand it in part because of the revolutionary threat of communism that swept Europe.

Franco reminds me of the EU's influence. Diplomacy apparently sometimes helps. But diplomacy in Africa seems a quite complicated chess game.

Anonymous said...

The FNL, at this point, is designated a terrorist organization.

and for good reason.

my broad point here is that if you sign an agreement, as FNL did, then you need to play by the rules. if politics were a fair game all the time than there would be no need for those things. but it's not. it is just so frustrating to watch certain African nation's constantly bicker about this or that. i think watching this, from the outside, feeds the racism out there that says africans are just savages and don't know how to get it together and thus need charity. it then, ofcourse, leads to a lack of engagement which leads to more trouble, and then more of our tax dollars to fund more aid, more UN, etc.

at what point does this stop, Vincent? at what point do they collectively decide that enough is enough?

personally, I just feel that africans are working out the processes all others need to work out so as to "evolve" to a place where violence isn't the last resort.

europeans had to get to the point where nearly 70 million of them perished- some in methodically built death chambers- in order to say "ok, it may make sense to figure out how to live and work together".

with the great lakes, the horn, and these horrible election in Ivory Coast, Liberia, Cameroon, etc it just seems that africans are not there. this "peace maturity" is simply not there.

you say its a question of economic development. but how is that to happen if elites are too busy bludgeoning themselves to death? or the opposition complaining constantly that they wish for a better playing field? both reactions lead to instability which then leads to no growth.

it is one reason why I support the ideas of Dambiso Mayo. her thinking, while simple and perhaps catastrophic, is revelatory: cut off aid and let them figure out how to develop.

others think she is crazy. but I don't.

It is also why I like Kagame. He's running a tight ship that is actually leading to growth that is widespread. yes, he's a dictator but did not Plato himself say the best leader was a benevolent one?

europe didn't have aid after 500 years of violent gorge fests. america didn't have it after a truly nasty civil war.

so, perhaps Africans shouldn't have it either so they can work out these ancient and moronic hatreds.

I say we let africans redraw their maps. atleast it would put them in the driver's seat.


Vincent Harris said...

I do not say it's a question of economic development.

I like the Rusesabagina/Krueger truth and reconciliation solution that doesn't put all eggs in the basket of military crushing hutu rebel organisation.

The transition process in Congo that led to the 2006 elections is an example of the success of diplomacy over military solutions.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Vincent.

So, I'd like to apologize for the heavy-handed nature of my response. Clearly, it wasn't responsible so I'd like to take back my remarks.

Please accept this apology.

That said, it is just my thinking that we need to figure out how to encourage trust in post conflict societies. While I agree in things like a TC, this can only go so far in ensuring trust. Justice is important but, alone it doesn't get one to imbibing some trust among belligerents and stability in a political system.

For reasons of consolidating power and a lack of trust, the current Burundian government engaged in a really bad election back in 2010. So, as a response, the FNL and others withdrew from them and for the FNL went back to the bush and engaged in mass killings.

One side doesn’t trust the other and wins by fraud, the other side doesn’t trust either and engages in violence.

All want power.

As a result, Burundians at large are the poorest people on Earth and Americans and Europeans get flood with appeals to “give”.

I’m done with “giving”, Vincent. Done.

I say to compel better behavior we make two things clear:

1) anyone who is found engaging in any criminality cannot persist in government and will be hunted down by Interpol- both inside and outside the government. Criminality is punishable in any decent society and that must be maintained.

2) all aid will, moving forward, be conditioned on Burundians making a series of reforms to allow truly open and vigorous competition. They can choose the reforms but, at the very least, it must be something that leads to stability, openness, and transparency. Once reforms come the aid will flow based on whether they work that system. If it doesn’t, aid is cut off. No questions or appeals- just cut off.

In my view, if this occurred it would be sufficiently humiliating enough for ALL Burundians to work like hell to get off aid.

In the process, the government will reform, development will come to get off aid, and Burundians will have a better life.

Let’s make aid totally humiliating for the recipient so it spurs a desire to get off it by focusing on private sector growth.

I once had a wayward son who kept messing up in life. Well, after another request for “help”, I said “enough, you are a grown man and need to stand on your own two feet like the rest of us. “. He got off drugs, got away from abusive friends, and is now a lawyer on the make. Doing this led to homelessness for me which broke my and his mother’s heart but it was good for him.

It’s called tough love and nearly ALL leaders in Central Africa need a deep and heavy dose of it.


Vincent Harris said...

No problem, apology accepted.

I wasn't following Burundi that much. But I start to get really interested.

Burundi has lots of opportunities to play a more constructive role in the region instead of fighting over who has the largest piece of the cake.