The UN Peacekeeping Mission for Burundi Is Doomed to Fail

Alarm bells should be going off right now at the UN as the crisis in Burundi enters its second year. But they’ve been ringing for so long that the well-groomed diplomats of 42nd Street must no longer hear them. The BBC has the latest:

The UN Security Council has authorised the deployment of a UN police force to Burundi to try to quell violence and human rights abuses in the country.

The council backed a French-drafted resolution to send up to 228 police for an initial period of a year.

Burundi earlier said it would accept no more than 50 police officers. […]

“Given an increase in violence and tension the Security Council must have eyes and ears on the ground to predict and ensure that the worst does not occur in Burundi,” said French UN Ambassador Francois Delattre.

“This is a strong act of preventative diplomacy,” he added.

Keep in mind that at 228 personnel, this force is roughly 10% the strength of the peacekeeping mission that couldn’t stop the genocide in Rwanda 22 years ago. The proposed peacekeeping mission for Burundi relies on even smaller numbers, and they’re police officers, not soldiers.

Admittedly, President Nkurunziza doesn’t want peacekeepers in his country—as he made clear to the AU back in December. And his supporters demonstrated in the capital yesterday to show that they don’t want them either. But what’s the point in proposing a peacekeeping mission if it’s too big to please a dictator and too small to protect his people?

“Doubtless, doubtless,” mutters the impotent captain Benito Cereno in Melville’s novella of the same name. Melville’s character was responding to leading questions from a well-meaning observer who wanted the captain to better discipline his unruly crew. In the UN’s response to the crisis in Burundi, one can’t help but hear echoes of Benito Cereno.

Doesn’t the conflict in Burundi have a worrying ethnic dimension?

Doubtless, doubtless.

Wouldn’t the peace talks fail without the opposition represented at the negotiating table?

Doubtless, doubtless.

And now, isn’t this pittance of a peacekeeping mission doomed to fail?

Doubtless, doubtless.

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