None of this gets into the news stories I or other people write, for two reasons. That this blog post is three times the length of my usual news article is one reason. But the other reason is that journalism is vulnerable to the same kind of complicity as the international community: Our professional assumptions give more authority to sources with power. This, too, is not a fatal flaw, but it is also a weakness, and often a blind spot.
Think about the characters in this wonky drama: The ‘independent’ electoral commission; a victorious political party whose clear interest in winning dissolves in the face of ‘objective’ international endorsement; and those international endorsers. Two of the three I’m supposed to take as neutral, without clear evidence to the contrary. But I don’t get to explain to readers that there’s reason to doubt, if not the actors (and that’s a big if), the game in which they are engaged.
So we’ll call Burundi’s election controversial. Irregularities will be noted and ‘learned from.’ The opposition parties’ refusal to participate will be regretted. Burundians will be congratulated on persevering through it all, at least until they don’t. And if the night of the election is any indication, grenades will be thrown, most people (“even the prostitutes!”) will be in after dark, and everyone will sit, torqued, waiting to see if Burundi “relapses” into rebellion. But democracy nonetheless.
That’s one way to look at the forest. From another point of view, it’s a tangled, messy jungle, and there’s just no good way out.
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