Is the African Union a Western Front for Civil War in Burundi?

Executive editor and founder of Black Agenda Report discusses the latest in the apparent civil war in Burundi describing much of the problem as originating in Western/outside influences.

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JARED BALL, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome, everyone, back to the Real News. I’m Jared Ball here in Baltimore.

On Friday, December 18, the African Union authorized sending 5,000 peacekeepers to Burundi to protect civilians caught up in what reports are saying is the worst violence in the most recent move there towards civil war. More than 400 people have been killed in what is described by Reuters and others as escalating violence, and what the United Nations has called a campaign of repression.

We know that our next guest has long followed the history and more recent developments in that region of the world, and we turn now to him for his analysis of the situation. Glen Ford is executive editor and founder of Black Agenda Report, and is back again with us here for his Ford Report. Glen, welcome back to the Real News.

GLEN FORD: Thanks for having me.

BALL: So Glen, please catch us up and tell us what you make of all these recent developments.

FORD: Well, Kwame Nkrumah should be turning over in his grave. I think we see history in the making, because it appears that the United States has succeeded in making the African Union into an instrument of U.S. foreign policy.

The African Union’s decision, it just came up with this decision recently, to send 5,000 troops to the small nation of Burundi, whether Burundi’s elected government likes it or not. This represents the first time that the AU has sent soldiers into a country without permission. Burundi’s president, Nkurunziza, calls this an invasion, and he says that he will resist an invasion. Those casualties that you were talking about over a period of months in Burundi are really not high at all by Great Lakes standards. There’s been a great deal of violence in this region. Genocide, not just in Rwanda. Not just in the Congo. But also in Burundi, in very recent years. So these numbers that they’re reporting, and claiming that it represents some kind of danger to the nation’s stability, are really not on a scale that would warrant this kind of unprecedented move by the AU.

There can be no doubt that the United States is behind this invasion threat by the AU, and that the real source of the turmoil in the region is Rwanda. That’s Burundi’s neighbor. And it’s ruled, of course, by Paul Kagame. He’s the Tutsi dictator of that country. Kagame is the hitman for the United States in that part of Africa. He’s always willing to do Washington’s dirty work. And in return the United States protects Kagame and his government from international censure for its crimes, which include the genocide of 6 million Congolese, the repression of the Hutu majority in his own country, and Kagame’s sending out of hit squads all over the world to assassinate his opponents. All of that makes him a very good African, as far as Washington is concerned.

Kagame just held a phony referendum that would allow him to stay in office until the year 2034, and that seems to be all right with Washington. He claims that he got 98 percent of the vote in that referendum. And if you believe that then you will believe anything. Burundi’s president, Nkurunziza, on the other hand, is only seeking a third term. And he can make a reasonable claim that he deserves a third term in office. But the U.S. says no, no, no, he’s got to go. And Rwanda has been busy making sure that Nkurunziza has to go. Kagame’s government has been creating an army out of Burundian refugees, arming them, sometimes kidnapping them and taking them by force into this new army. Preparing to send them back into Burundi to start a civil war.

Remember, that is how Paul Kagame came to power in Rwanda in the early ’90s. And what resulted from his invasion of Rwanda? A genocide. Any attack by these refugees who are being armed by Rwanda or an invasion by the African Union could set off a new round of real bloodletting in Burundi, in which hundreds of thousands died in the early years of the 21st century and in the 1990s. However, just like elsewhere in the world, the United States is more intent upon regime change. And it doesn’t care how many Africans die in the process. And now it appears that the African Union itself, which Kwame Nkrumah envisioned as an instrument for the sovereignty, the protection of the African continent, that the AU itself is now an instrument of imperial policy.

BALL: Well, certainly the AU is not the organization of African unity and the pan-African and scientific, socialist vision that Nkrumah had. But I am wondering, also, if you could just quickly tell us a little bit about what is–you’ve mentioned the United States. But what are some of the other factors and players in the background encouraging this violence, and what are the two states themselves claiming, both Rwanda and Burundi, and then internally what is Burundi claiming are the actual reasons for this civil war? And if there’s a way to work into your answer–because I know that this is a part of it–what factor does the Congo play in all of this as well?

FORD: Well, the Congo is the source of Rwanda’s vaunted prosperity. Rwanda is held up as a model for the rest of Africa in terms of its economic success. But as anybody who knows anything about the region can tell you, Rwanda’s success is predicated upon the theft of resources from the very–its very rich neighbor, the Congo. And the theft of those resources was the purpose of the Rwandan invasion of the Congo, lasting decades, that resulted in 6 million dead.

In terms of the friction between Burundi and Rwanda, understand that the Hutu majority in Burundi was also under the heel of a Tutsi minority, whose power lay in the military. That was the source of a civil war. In Rwanda we had a population that looks quite the same, in which the Tutsi minority came to power with Paul Kagame.

So Kagame believes himself to be the savior and salvation of all the Tutsis in the region, and of course he would be, be causing trouble for a Hutu leader in Burundi. He needs no more excuse than that. He also prospers when other countries in the, in the Great Lakes region do not, because he becomes the party that does most of the trade in the region.

The United States props him up because Kagame contributes soldiers any time the United States needs them anywhere in Africa. Either for so-called peacekeeping missions or in more unilateral U.S. efforts to make sure that only people who are friendly to U.S. policy remain in power and with their heads.

BALL: Glen Ford, thanks again for joining us here at the Real News.

FORD: Thank you.

BALL: And thank you for joining us here at the Real News. And for all involved, again, I’m Jared Ball here in Baltimore, saying as Fred Hampton used to say, to you we say peace if you’re willing to fight for it. So peace, everybody, and we’ll catch you in the whirlwind.

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