Can a UN police force stop violence in Burundi?

Drafted by France and adopted unanimously late Friday night, the resolution calls on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to draw up a list of options for an international police presence in Burundi within 15 days.

Frank Reidy, you served as part of an Irish peacekeeping mission in Rwanda following the genocide in the mid-nineties. You have also worked with NGOs in Burundi for a year.

1) Could the tensions in Burundi today escalate as they did in Rwanda?

One of the things that we’ve learned from Rwanda is that genocide doesn’t occur overnight. There’s a lead-up for many years between the start of conflict and inter-ethnic violence. This sometimes starts at a small level, at village level, then spreads into the towns… This is what seems to be happening in Burundi at the moment. There are human rights abuses, the police and the army have taken a very heavy hand, the media has been virtually shut down… It may not happen that it’s genocide, but it’s certainly going in a direction that could lead to genocide. Therefore the international community cannot stand back and wait for something terrible to happen.

2) How important is this UN resolution, which plans to send an international police force to moniter the security situation in Burundi?

This is the most significant event in the international community. We’ve had an attempt by the African Union to put in a large peace-keeping force and an observer force in Burundi. We then had the visit of the United Nations Security Council itself, the Secretary-General visited the country… But at all stages, there doesn’t seem to be have been any action, any force on the ground, or any international involvement that could report to the UN Secretary-General. What is going on exactly? Burundu is full of rumours, speculation, people are making allegations… It is very important that the UN Security Council have people on the ground, and it seems that this initiative might go a long way towards that.

3) But the resolution plans to send police experts and observers, to work alongside Burundi’s own security forces. Will this be enough to stop the violence, or should the United Nations be sending a proper peacekeeping force?

First of all, the UN and its members will not deploy troops against the will of other member states. In other words, in order to get this force up and running it needed the acquiescence of the Security Council, and of course, Burundi. This is a half-way house. The UN need somebody on the ground to to report, to moniter, and to advise the Security Council. This police force is not a panacea, but it’s probably the best way forward. As a last resort, the Security Council can take action without the permission of the Brundi government. But it hasn’t come to that yet and it’s unlikely to in the present situation.

Source: rfi afrique