Only six years after the resolution of its civil war, Burundi is again on edge. A bar shooting this week resulted in the deaths of at least 36 Burundians, and the violence has roots in the ongoing conflict between the governing party and the opposition. The New York Times reports:
Burundian officials immediately accused an armed opposition political party that had recently fled into the thick forests of neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, and many Burundians fear that their country could be sliding back toward war. […]According to witnesses, around 9 p.m. on Sunday, 10 gunmen descended on the Chez Les Amis bar in Gatumba, a small town near the Congo border. An African diplomat in Nairobi said that the bar was owned by a supporter of the Burundian government and that it was a well-known watering hole for fans of the governing party.
Although it provides some basic details, the Times article completely neglects to mention one of the most important aspects of this heinous act: the role of ethnicity. Burundi has long been traumatized by the conflict between Hutu and Tutsi, which have been one of the main drivers of the nation’s politics — and of course is also a factor in violence throughout the region. Both Reuters and RNW suggest the violence is a result of discord between the Hutu-dominated opposition and the Tutsi-led ruling party, but the Grey Lady refuses to sully the pages of her Burundi coverage with tribal names.This is exactly the type of reporting we don’t need. Africa already gets short shrift in the news media — reporting that willfully obscures key elements of the region’s politics makes things worse. The casual reader of the Times story would see only a tale of senseless violence and come away even more baffled by African politics than he or she already was.