Burundi’s president cites the universal excuse, terrorism, to justify his violence

One ancillary problem with the fact that the United States has committed itself to an indeterminate and geographically undefinable “war” against…well, who knows at this point (people who commit terrorist attacks? the tactic of “terrorism”? the emotion of “terror”? anybody who doesn’t like the United States?), is that autocrats around the world feel like they can use “the terrorists” as an excuse whenever they decide to bash around their own people. The King of Bahrain brings in Saudi soldiers to gun protesters down in the streets? Hey, those protesters were probably terrorists. Saudis plan to execute a preacher for preaching stuff the Saudis don’t like? That dude was, ah, aiding terrorists. Pharaoh President Sisi wants to justify liquidating the political opposition and maybe executing his predecessor? Whoa, man, terrorism.

I suppose its no surprise, then that Burundi’s embattled but undaunted President Pierre Nkurunziza is employing this chestnut to justify his own current campaign of repression. Nkurunziza, who just survived an attempted coup brought on by a lot of public discontent over his decision to seek a constitutionally questionable third term in office, has already started cracking down on protesters, to the tune of 20 dead and tens of thousands displaced. However, since the coup he’s started referring to protesters as “accomplices” of the generals who tried to overthrow him, which raises the worrisome possibility that the crackdown is about to get ratcheted up several notches. In an effort to defend the largely indefensible, Nkurunziza is telling people that the protests and the attempted coup have been perpetrated by, obviously, “terrorists,” in this case elements of Somalia’s Al-Shabaab organization that are angry that Burundi has contributed troops to the African Union Mission to Somalia:

Al Jazeera’s Haru Mutasa, reporting from Bujumbura, said the president wanted to show that he was back in the country and in control.

“He told Burundians they were either with him or with the terrorists,” Mutasa said.

He’s even stealing President Bush’s best macho lines! Anyway, if there are any more dead protesters in the streets of Burundi, and there will be, rest assured that they were terrorists, don’t you know, and all’s fair when you’re fighting terrorists.

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