Friday, 2 November 2007

Fighting in Burundi: A Sort of Success Story

Fighting between factions in the last remaining rebel group in Burundi was reported last week. Several hundred people were forced to flee their village when forces of the Front national de libération attacked a breakaway group which wants to take part in implementation of a ceasefire agreement initially arrived at in 2006. Government officials reported that there were no casualties in this latest skirmish.

The situation is undoubtedly more complex than one single paragraph can convey, yet it is more than those North Americans and Europeans who follow events in the Great Lakes Region of Africa will find in conventional media. Partly that is—as IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, reports-- because Burundi “is experiencing a period of relative calm after more than a decade of political conflict and civil war. The country held its first successful post-war democratic elections in August 2005.” Not much blood has been shed lately, that is, so not much attention has been paid by the outside world.

The IRIN country profile continues: “However, the cumulative impact of extremely low living standards and a continuous deterioration in social and economic conditions means at least half the estimated 7.5 million inhabitants live on less than US$1 a day."

Nevertheless I find this news encouraging as I plunge into the final rewrite of my novel The Violets of Usambara. It takes place in 1997 when conflict between Tutsis and Hutus had resulted in other African nations placing an embargo on Burundi in an attempt to bring the ethnic groups to peace negotiations. To some extent those pan-African efforts—which had Nelson Mandela as chief negotiator-- have worked, and therein may lie hope for the future of the continent

No comments: