On December 18, 2018, a United Nations Expert Report on Burundi was delivered to UN Security Council
By Gilbert Niyonkuru
Experts hired by the United Nations have accused Burundi’s government of arming a rebel group based in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to destabilise Rwanda.
A report submitted to the United Nations Security Council in December 18, 2018 accuses Burundi of recruiting for and logistically helping rebel forces led by Kayumba Nyamwasa, a former Rwandan general now opposed to the regime in Kigali.
The experts who compiled the report say they have gathered witness statements from 12 former fighters of the movement called P5 or “national congres of Rwanda” or “Kayumba Nyamwasa group”.
The report identifies a certain Rashid as paymaster for the costs of transporting the recruits who travel through Bujumbura to the movement headquarters in Bijombo Forest in Southern Kivu in the DRC. The statements of the 12 former fighters confirm that armed men leave Burundi via Lake Tanganyika or the river Rusizi towards the DRC.
The same witnesses said logistical support for the movement arrives from Burundi. Almost every month, the group reportedly receives medication, food and weapons, ammunition, boots and uniforms from Burundi.
The witnesses, mostly Burundian, Rwandan and Ugandan, have disclosed that they saw the latest weapons delivery from Burundi was in September 2018. They had been issued new weapons in February and April of last year, also arriving from Burundi, and transported in canoes through Lake Tanganyika.
This report reinforces observer accounts by several local human rights organisations and media, which have noted the involvement of the Burundian regime in the organisation and reinforcement of negative forces whose ultimate goal it is to destabilise Rwanda.
Vital Nshimirimana of the Forum for the Strengthening of Civil Society, FORSC, said he was outraged by the complicity of Bujumbura in the recruitment and arming of the armed groups.
Long before the beginning of the crisis triggered by Pierre Nkurunziza’s third term, Imbonerakure militia financed and coordinated by the regime reportedly trained in the DRC. The UN even demanded the retreat or dismantlement of the destabilizing forces in the DRC.
“Instead of retreating and dismantling the armed groups in the DRC, the Burundian regime is said to have offered the FDLR – Democratic Forces of Liberation of Rwanda a rear base and multifaceted support. In reality, the Burundian regime does not hide any more – it plays this role openly. In my opinion, I think this report won’t even bother those in power in Bujumbura said Nshimirimana.
Onésime Nduwimana, spokesperson for the opposition platform CNARED, believes that Nkurunziza and his supporters are funding the rebel group because they cannot justify the “reckless political crisis they have provoked in Burundi, they try at all cost to acquire the sympathy of the negative forces of the sub-region, in order to provoke a regional crisis.”
He adds: “Finding allies to trigger a regional war would overshadow the real causes of the Burundian crisis and push them into the background. The shortcut is to revive the crisis and to point to wounds not healed yet, talking about ethnic groups and impunity to wake up the old demons of those who dream of vengeance.”
Nduwimana, a former spokesperson of the CNDD-FDD (party in power), claims that the Nkurunziza regime buys time using several strategies to remain in power: “He relies on so-called experts who create for diversions to distract the Burundians’ attention from the real problems linked to bad governance, the disrespect for agreements and the laws of the land. This has lead to protest, violent and heinous repression that goes as far as crimes against humanity.”
And if the Burundian crisis becomes regional…
“Burundi is governed by a gang that is capable of provoking asn apocalypse. Nkurunziza has regularly used a strategy of blackmail against partner states and international organisations, and his strategy seems to produce results,” says Nshimirimana.
“As it is not very used to this kind of anti-conventional and accusatory diplomacy, the majority of the international community has chosen caution and wisdom, in the hope that the behaviour of the regime will change. But instead of changing their minds, the regime leaders create new scandals, some of them worse than the previous ones. And in this rhythm, the Burundian regime creates distraction to try and escape from its own problems,” says Nduwimana.
He recalls that Nkurunziza tries to distract the attention from the ongoing crimes in Burundi and to cultivate the sympathy of his supporters, who tend to believe that he is defending their causes. Thus it is not uncommon to hear of Hutu extremists, cherished by Nkunrunziza, pretending that the regime’s behaviour is a positive answer to the expansion of the imaginary Hima empire (ethno-linguistic group, descendants from the Nilotic peoples, a people of cattle raisers that came from the North, living in the East of the DRC, in Uganda, in Rwanda and in Burundi – editor’s note).
Still the Nkurunziza regime has nothing to gain, according to Nshimirimana. It is made up of people deeply in despair, who care little about the negative consequences that might result from their attitude. It is generally people who have never had statesmanship, a sense of the nation, the general interest.
“What the Burundian regime is doing confirms the longstanding allegations of human rights organisations that denounce the abuses committed by this regime, which is capable of provoking a regional crisis reminiscent of the genocide in Burundi,” he adds.
The experts report underlines that Kayumba Nyamwasa’s men have not yet attacked Rwanda: “Those former fighters (who have talked to the UN experts – editor’s note) clarified that they have never attacked Rwanda, but they have fought armed Burundian groups in the territories of Fizi and Uvira in the DRC, namely Aloys Nzabampema’s FNL, the Red-Tabara and the Maï- Maï.”