Officials Allege that Rwanda Refugees are Being Recruited to Fight Burundi
Officials in Burundi say refugees in neighboring Rwanda are being recruited to fight against the Burundian government and they accuse Rwanda of aiding the rebels. The allegation heightens the regional tensions as political violence in Burundi escalates.
Willy Nyamitwe, the Burundian presidential adviser told journalists on Monday that his government has proof that Burundian refugees have been recruited into armed groups and he was quick to name the suspected culprit. “We have evidence that people are being trained in Rwanda. Some persons who came to attack Burundi last July, that have been caught by the army, they revealed that they have been trained in Rwanda. And all the plotters, the coup plotters, those who attempted the coup last May, when they run away, they went in Rwanda. So we do believe that people are being trained in Rwanda, as well as weapons that are coming from Rwanda,” he said.
The presidential advisor said Burundi’s government wasn’t ready to reveal what steps they may take next. Tensions between the two leaders are nothing new as Rwandan President Paul Kagame condemned Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza's bid to remain in power this year.
The allegations come in response to a new report from advocacy group Refugees International, which says non-state armed groups in Rwanda are systematically recruiting desperate Burundians in Rwandan refugee camps. According to sources, researchers spoke to 80 refugees who said they had been recruited or trained by militant groups.
Under international law, refugee camps must be exclusively civilian in nature -- no military presence, recruitment or activities are allowed. According to reports, researchers did not find an ethnic angle to the recruitment. They were also careful to avoid assigning blame but did ask Rwandan authorities to step up.
Burundi has suffered unrest since April, when Nkurunziza announced his intention to run for a third term.But he weathered a May coup attempt and won a disputed election in July, and the strife has continued, peaking this past weekend when 87 people were killed after attackers stormed army installations in the capital. The United Nations refugee agency says more than 200,000 Burundians have fled into neighboring countries since the crisis began.