UN report pins Rwanda on training Burundian refugees

Burundian refugees in Rwanda

Burundian refugees in Rwanda

A report addressed to the United Nations Security Council has implicated Rwanda in the training and arming of Burundian refugees in a bid to launch an armed rebellion against President Pierre Nkurunziza.

The report, according to Reuters was compiled by the United Nations group of experts observing sanctions against the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

“They all told the group that they had been recruited in the Mahama Refugee Camp in eastern Rwanda in May and June 2015 and were given two months of military training by instructors, who included Rwandan military personnel,” the report read in part.

In the course of the current conflict in Burundi, the authorities in Bujumbura have on many occasions accused Rwanda of training and arming the Burundian refugees in the refugee camps in Rwanda with the goal of “destabilizing” Burundi.

In October 2015, Burundi’s Foreign Minister Alain Nyamitwe openly pointed a finger at Rwanda telling BBC that “We also have extensive information about recruitments in refugee camps, especially in Mahama (same camp mentioned in the UN report) refugee camp, where refugees are taken for military training, and some of the trainers are Rwandans.”

Also in December 2015, an advocacy group Refugees International released a report alleging Rwanda was recruiting Burundian refugees at Mahama camp, and training them in Nyungwe Forest before shipping them to neighbouring DRC into armed groups fighting the Burundian government.

The damning report titled Asylum Betrayed: Recruitment of Burundian Refugees in Rwanda contained detailed accounts of refugees narrating their ordeal prompting the authors to strongly urge Rwanda to halt recruiting and training activities involving Burundian refugees with immediate effect.

Refugees International called on Rwanda to “ensure that all efforts to recruit Burundian refugees into armed groups – whether on or emanating from Rwandan territory, and whether committed by Burundian or Rwandan nationals – cease immediately.”

The Rwandan Ambassador to the United Nations Eugene Gasana refuted the latest report findings saying “This further undermines the credibility of the Group of Experts, which seems to have extended its own mandate, but apparently investigating Burundi.” The authorities in Kigali including Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo and President Paul Kagame have all dismissed reports linking Rwanda to the conflict in Burundi.

Rwanda hosts majority of the over 230, 000 Burundians that have fled the current turmoil to regional countries like Tanzania, DRC and Uganda.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday eight people were injured in Bujumbura after grenade explosions rocked the fragile capital. Also on Monday night, two teenagers were shot dead and two others injured in an armed attack against a family in Ruyaga village, near the upscale neighbourhood of Kiriri, Kanyosha commune. Still on Monday night, one person was killed and seven others injured in a grenade explosion at a pub in Buterere, Ntahangwa municipal commune in Bujumbura.

This recent surge in deadly violence comes at a time when the African Union has shelved its proposal to deploy 5000 peacekeeping forces to Burundi following strong opposition from the government.