The 37th Ordinary Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) which was held in Pretoria, South Africa on 19th and 20th August 2017 declined Burundi’s request to join the Community and indicated that the assessment of Burundi to be admitted remains work in progress.
It is obvious that Burundi’s request was refused due to the ongoing of political turmoil characterized by bad governance, human rights violations and the absence of rule of law. An evaluation exercise that was to be carried out in Burundi in May 2018 by SADC failed to materialise after the Burundian government asked for the mission to be postponed. However, it was recently announced that a SADC evaluation team is expected to visit Burundi in May 2019.
Recently, Burundi’s Foreign Affairs Minister Ezéchiel Nibigira travelled in different SADC member countries lobbying for their support for Burundi to adhere into the southern Africa bloc. He visited Namibia (current chair) and Botswana (SADC HQs). Sources who spoke to The Great Lakes Eye revealed that Burundi is targeting support from Namibia and Tanzania, which will be elected as Chair of SADC during the 39th SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government scheduled to be held in Tanzania in August 2019.
Despite lobbying by the Government of Burundi, political and security situation in the country remains tense. Burundi’s political and security environment remains alarming with worse indications ahead of 2020 elections. The humanitarian situation is dominated by persistent arbitrary detentions, torture, sexual violence and summary executions perpetrated in a climate of impunity. These flagrant oppressions contravene SADC fundamental tenets regarding democratic governance.
Furthermore, these actions are taking place in an environment where freedom of expression, association and assembly are supressed. On 29 March 2019, Burundi’s National Council of Communication (CNC) announced the withdrawal of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)’s operating license for producing a “slanderous, deceitful and scathing” documentary and the continued suspension of the Voice of America “until further notice” for employing a Burundian journalist accused of involvement in the failed coup d’état of 13 May 2015.
It is bizarre to see Burundi struggling to become a member of SADC yet it has failed to uphold the EAC fundamental principles such as mutual trust, peaceful co-existence and good neighbourliness, good governance, and co-operation for mutual benefit. Burundi has failed to financially contribute into the bloc as it has an assessed contribution arrears amounting to $ 25, 6246,204.
Analysts have revealed to The Great Lakes Eye that Burundi’s application to the SADC could be broadly interpreted as a form of diplomatic diversification away from the EAC and that branching out into the SADC is probably being viewed by the Burundian authorities as a way of lessening the country’s dependence on the EAC and thus the magnitude of unwanted pressures. An anticipated question should now be how a respected regional organization like SADC can admit a country with human rights violation record. Is the country making it a tactic to keep running from regional organizations after causing trouble? SADC members should watch out this!!