Nelson Mandela wore Xhosa dress on traditional occasions
Nelson Mandela wore Xhosa dress on traditional occasions

Madiba Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is an iconic figure and the world?s most celebrated person in recent times. His role in the struggle against white oppression in South Africa which led to his incarceration in prison for almost three decades has made him an international figure who commands high respect and reverence in the fight for the protection of human dignity.

 

In the past few days Mandela?s death had attracted tributes from across the four corners of the world. Some of which have been in a form of documentaries portraying the life of a once tenacious and aggressive freedom fighter to an international personality who exudes peace, confidence, experience, wisdom and compassion whiles showing strength and determination when needed.

 

Nelson Mandela did not only play a critical role in the history of South Africa from an Apartheid regime where inhumane atrocities were committed against black South Africans but also contributed to the growth of democracy. In addition Mandela also contributed to peace and conflict resolutions on the African continent.

 

This article explores the role played by Mandela in the resolution of the Burundian political crises through which the Arusha Peace Agreement and the Pretoria Protocol were established.

Burundi is a small Central African landlocked country (27 830 km2), with approximately 7 million inhabitants and bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east and south, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. More than half a million Burundians died following the political crises of 1965, 1972, 1988, 1991 and 1993. The 1993 crisis just like previous ones was born out of ethnic and identity struggles between two dominant ethnic group Tutsis and Hutus in a bloody contest for state power.

 

Like its neighbour Rwanda, there were rampant cyclical ethnic massacres between major ethnic groups in the country leading to the assassination of President Cyprien Ntaryamira. It was the timely intervention of the then Organization of African Unity (OAU) through the assistance of the then United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali upon an advice by his Special Representative in the region (Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah) which brought a global awareness to the rampant massacres and possible genocide in Burundi. The OAU mandated the regional leaders of the Great Lakes to appoint a respectable mediator to mediate the crisis. Tanzania?s former President, Julius Nyerere was appointed as the lead mediator in the conflict.

 

In the course of the peace negotiations Nyerere took ill and eventually died in October 1999 leaving a void in the Burundi mediation team. In order not to lose track of the mediation process an immediate replacement was required. Nyerere?s replacement must be someone who understand the actors, well respected and have a commanding tact and skills. Nelson Mandela was appointed as Nyerere?s replacement. Having taken just two weeks of consultations with all facilitators to understand Nyerere?s modus operandi, Mandela brilliantly stepped into action.

 

The leadership experience Mandela showed during apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa in helping to heal decades of heinous atrocities helped him to steer and control the affairs of the Burundian crisis. In some sense, the realities of Burundians were similar to South Africa where a minority Tutsis elite control all prominent political and ??economic institutions ?including ??the military. Holding strategic positions enabled the minority Tutsis to enact legislations which disenfranchised the majority Hutus.

The result was Hutus disgruntlement against the Tutsis. Thus the mediator to replace Nyerere must be sensitive to the fragile nature of the brewing conflict shrouded with minority versus majority undertones. Mandela therefore stood out. His soft spoken nature, yet resolve to deal with the issues decisively were acutely appreciated by all.

Carrot And Stick Approach

Mandela introduced a new pulse into the mediation. Using the carrot and stick approach to stir the negotiations. He adopted a process to ensure a quick and decisive conclusion of the proceedings. To achieve this, he deemed it necessary to reproach the negotiators for stalling the process and was not afraid to even resort to threats of international economic sanctions for the government and genocidal indictment for armed group representatives in order to keep them on track. This pressure hastened the process leading to the signing of the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement in August 2000.

 

Mandela capitalized on his ability to coax and pressure the negotiators to agree or face the wrath of the impatient international community. Through he was able to openly chastise respected state stewards such as former President Buyoya (whose attitude was negatively affecting the peace process). This action inspired confidence in all the parties and Mandela was seen as a man who could not be easily influenced by a government which at times projects itself as more important than the other negotiators.

 

Mandela also had a way of dealing with difficult contentious issues. Realizing that sometimes delegates were willing to make compromises but feared reactions from their constituencies, he sought audience with such constituents and spoke to them directly about the peace process, inroads made and the importance for peace in Burundi. A critical example was co-opting the CNDD-FDD and Palipehutu-FNL armed groups where he adopted the strategy of speaking to soldiers loyal to the CNDD-FDD and Palipehutu-FNL negotiators and appealed for their understanding.

 

Mandela?s ability to quickly identify some of the continued triggers of instability led to the inclusion of other armed groups such as the CNDD-FDD and Palipehutu-FNL into the peace negotiations. Laying emphasis on an ?all inclusive? agreement he included all previously excluded armed groups into the negotiation. This approach was massively supported by Burundians.

 

To further prove his commitment, Mandela accepted a request to separately address challenges between the CNDD-FDD and Palipehutu-FNL armed groups (whom he got to sign the Pretoria Accord with a post Arusha Buyoya government) thus maintaining control over the activities of the group. These acts further bolstered Mandela?s credibility among the actors.

 

Another incredible strategy Mandela adopted was his constant briefings to the international Community about the progress of the negotiations. These briefings summarily inspired a lot of support for his mediation, at the end of which major international figures awed the Burundians negotiators with their presence at the final dialogue sessions in which the Peace Agreements were authenticated through signatures.

 

Eight African Heads of States, the then Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the OAU, Salim Ahmed Salim, EU Representative, Charles Josselin, and Joseph Butiku were all presence at the signing and some even appended their signatures on the agreement giving the Arusha Accord an impetus to which all the signatories held as a collective responsibility in its implementation.

 

The Burundi dialogue initiated in 1998, ended in August 2004 with the formalization of the Pretoria Protocol on Political, Defence and Security Power Sharing in Burundi. This protocol addressed the issues relating to Tutsis military dominance and spoke on how to equilibrate military representation amongst Burundians. It also led to the coming into force of a new constitution for Burundi in February 2005. This was a major breakthrough credited to Madiba Nelson Mandela?s insight and tact.

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Ms. Beatrice Naa Torshie Torto

[email protected]

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