Rwanda Accused of Fueling Atrocities in War-Torn Burundi

May 05, 2016 at 08:41 am | News

Fredrick Ngugi

Fredrick Ngugi | Contributor

May 05, 2016 at 08:41 am | News

Police in Burundi disperse a crowd demonstrating in Bunjumbura. Photo (www.ctvnews.ca)

The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo has released a statement accusing Rwanda of recruiting former M23 rebels to assist in the ongoing civil war in Burundi.

Congolese government spokesman Mr. Lambert Mende Omalanga is reported to have accused Rwanda of paying former M23 militants who are seeking refuge in Rwanda and Uganda to join Burundian resistance forces and help oust President Pierre Nkurunziza.

“There are some wrong elements in Rwanda who are recruiting them (former M23 rebels) to go and fight in Burundi. We have arrested some of them in North Kivu (eastern Congo), and we shall prosecute them,” Mr. Mende told the local media.

He added that Congo won’t allow any of its citizens to participate in destabilization of peace and security in Burundi, asking the ex-M23 rebels to go back to Rwanda.

Since April 2015, Burundi has been engulfed in civil strife, which broke out after the current president decided to run for a disputed third consecutive term. The ongoing violence has left over 400 people dead and hundreds of thousands displaced.

Where Is the Evidence?

Since the violence began, Burundian President Nkurunziza has constantly accused Rwanda of recruiting refugees to oust him.

In February this year, a report by the UN Group of Experts accused leaders in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, of enlisting refugees from Mahama Camp (Eastern Rwanda) to join the Burundian resistance army.

However, Rwanda has vehemently denied these allegations, terming them “total rubbish.” Rwandan Ambassador to Uganda Major-General Frank Mugambage dismissed the latest accusation, telling local media:

“It’s the usual rhetoric and baseless allegations labeling Rwanda by others. There is no such a thing happening.”

Efforts to End the Crisis

In February, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon visited Burundi in an effort to bring the warring factions to an agreement that would end hostilities. After his meeting with the government and opposition, Ban Ki-Moon announced that the two sides had agreed to hold talks to end the war.

However, it is still unclear which opposition leader will hold talks with President Nkurunziza, as most of them have either gone into hiding, taken up arms or are in jail.

Ban Ki-Moon also announced that President Nkurunziza had agreed to free over 2,000 political prisoners and lift media restrictions as part of the agreement to end conflict.

Several African heads of state including South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma met in Bujumbura, Burundi, in February to discuss the political situation.

But according to local media, President Nkurunziza rejected plans by the African Union to send in peacekeepers, warning that he would see their arrival as an invasion.

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