Burundians protest against Kagame, Rwanda, en masse
Thousands of protesters took to the streets of the Burundian capital Bujumbura and other cities in the country Saturday, to demonstrate against Rwandan president Paul Kagame and his government accusing them of plotting to destabilize Burundi.
Protestors were livid Kagame and Rwanda have been recruiting and training young refugees with hopes of overthrowing a democratically elected government.
Angry demonstrators chanted anti-Kagame songs and waved placards with slogans like “We denounce Kagame and his plan to destabilize Burundi and the whole Great Lakes Region”, “We condemn the support of Rwanda to criminals who want to destabilize Burundi.”
In Bujumbura, from the Independence Square on their way to the shores of Lake Tanganyika where the march ended, demonstrators stopped momentarily in front of the Embassy of Rwanda, for about 10 minutes, voicing slogans hostile to President Kagame and singing the national anthem of Burundi before continuing their march.
“Bouuuuuuuu Kagame!”, “Bye bye Kagame!” “Kagame, we vomit him,” “We are on fight, mobilize the troops, Kagame is the enemy, we will ‘wash’ him,” the demonstrators chanted.
Throughout the whole country, the march ended with the message of the Ministry of Interior in which the Burundian government slammed the Rwandan leader and government for harbouring the May 13, 2015 coup plotters.
Over the course of the current turmoil in Burundi, relations between the two neighbours have deteriorated with Burundi repeatedly blaming Rwanda for recruiting and training of Burundian refugees and turning them into rebels and various reports have corroborated these allegations.
Rwanda has been at the receiving end of international criticism for allegedly recruiting, training and arming of Burundian refugees thereby destabilizing its next door neighbour.
Just this week, two US diplomats appeared before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee and stated they had come across credible evidence Rwanda was involved in “destabilizing activities” related to the training and recruiting of Burundian refugees and fueling the Burundian conflict.
“There are credible reports of recruitment of Burundian refugees out of camps in Rwanda to participate in armed attacks by Burundian armed opposition against the Burundian government,” US Special Representative to the Great Lakes Region, Thomas Perriello told US lawmakers.
Both Refugees International, an advocacy group and the UN have released almost similar reports alleging Rwanda has been training Burundian refugees. Rwanda has repeatedly dismissed these reports and allegations.
Rwanda has over 74.000 Burundian refugees and about 48,000 of them are currently living in Mahama camp, while many others live in cities and towns around Rwanda.
Mahama camp has been cited in the aforementioned reports as the recruiting ground for refugees. Rwanda has reacted by announcing plans to relocate 70,000 refugees to neighbouring countries. Rwandan authorities including President Kagame have refuted the accusations linking them to the Burundian crisis.
The protestors in Bujumbura and some cities like Gitega, the country’s second largest city, Ngozi, home town of President Pierre Nkurunziza, and Bubanza, hometown of ruling party chairman, also carried messages thanking the African Union for reconsidering its decision to send peacekeeping troops to Burundi.
In addition, marchers dismissed the idea of the government sitting down to negotiate with some of the people who allegedly took part in last year’s attempted coup.
“We reject talks with terrorists and coup plotters,” several placards read.
Analysts say these demonstrations, coupled with reports implicating Rwanda in the crisis and AU’s reversal of the peacekeeping measure, consist some sort of vindication of the Bujumbura government.