Black Agenda Report Executive Editor Glen Ford 

The African Union will not be deploying 5,000 troops to Burundi without Burundi’s consent. The A.U. summarily dismissed the U.S.-backed proposal at the African Union Summit of member states at the end of January.  Belgium’s foreign minister then stepped up to say that Belgium, Burundi’s former colonial master, would send troops if the U.N. Security Council gave its approval, but Russia and China have thus far resisted attempts to intervene in Burundi’s sovereign affairs. 

Most Western press judged the African Union harshly for its refusal to send troops to Burundi without Burundi’s consent. The editorial board of the Pittsburgh Gazette published an op-ed titled, “Wasted Summit: African Union leaders sidestep the big issues.” A BBC headline asked, “Has the African Union let down Burundi?” and its author opined that the AU’s decision was a failure of the mantra “African solutions to African problems.”
However, the A.U. troop deployment was never an African solution to African problems. It was always a Western solution to the West’s problem with Burundi’s current government. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the U.S., Canada, France, the EU and Belgium – Burundi’s former colonial master – were its most adamant advocates.
The U.S. Council on Foreign Relations published an editorial bemoaning the A.U. decision with the title “Sitting on Tied Hands: The African Union and Burundi.” But, whose hands are tied?  Not the African Union’s; it has made a decision.
CIUT-Toronto Taylor Report host Phil Taylor welcomed the A.U.’s decision to “halt the West’s humanitarian regime change express in Addis Ababa.”
Black Agenda Report Editor Glen Ford, speaking to Phil Taylor, said that Western nations pay most of the A.U.’s bills, so A.U. troops often do serve Western interests, but that this time the West had pushed too hard.  “Well, the one thing that we can count on these imperialists to do is overplay their hand and reach too far, so that even though their financial backing and the subversion that they have accomplished with most of the militaries of Africa through the AFRICOM strategy has been quite effective. Even folks who are willing to play the stooge do have some self-respect and they have constituencies and sometimes even they will say, ‘Back off. I would say that Tanzania has been working hard to put out this match that Samantha Power and her crowd were trying to light.
Ford also said that AFRICOM, the U.S. Africa Command, has had a very effective co-optation strategy, but that it will eventually receive more push back as it did at this year’s African Union Annual Summit. “African militaries have become dependent upon U.S. funding, U.S. training, even on the hope of somehow getting a leg up in the world through fraternization with U.S. military personnel. So it’s a masterful strategy that they’ve come up with, to not create a system of big U.S. bases in Africa but virtually to make every base in Africa an AFRICOM military base. But there will be pushback and I think that’s what you’re noting.”
Another element of the Burundian situation is the deployment of nearly 7000 Burundian troops in UN peacekeeping missions in Somalia, Mali, the Central African Republic, Darfur, Abyei, the Ivory Coast, and even Haiti. Although they operate under a UN umbrella, these deployments depend on Pentagon logistics, intelligence, and command. Peacekeeping deployments are essential to the U.S. and its Western allies’ interests, but they are also an economic opportunity for soldiers from the Global South and for troop contributing nations.

It’s not clear how this interdependence will play out as the US and its Western allies continue to push for regime change, but it is clear that Western interests are very thinly disguised as “African solutions” in Burundi.


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