10 February 2016

Africa: Rwanda Calls for "Maturity" Over Burundi Crisis

Photo: Le Pays
A street in Bujumbura (file photo).

Rwanda's foreign affairs minister Louise Mushikiwabo has once again denounced accusations that her government recruited and trained Burundian refugees to fight and oust Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza.

While responding to reporters Tuesday, after briefing senators on the state of Rwanda's foreign affairs policy, Ms Mushikiwabo said that there was "need for maturity" while handling the Burundian crisis, and asked all players to look for strong solutions instead of finding "scapegoats".

"I think we need to be mature on issues about refugees. Wherever you have refugees, there is a problem. Even when you look at the Syrian refugee crisis, it is always a problem with the neighbouring countries. Even Tanzania is facing this issue of Burundian refugees," she said.

"So we are not going to kick out Burundians who have fled to this country just because they are not friends with the government of Burundi. So these are things we should expect - it is just a question of managing them."

She added that: "This is not just a humanitarian problem but a political problem as well. It is very clear to us Rwandans that it is our international obligation to participate in finding a solution but also because of the special relationship between Burundians and Rwandans."

Previously, Ms Mushikiwabo accused Burundian leaders for the escalating violence in the central African country, and urged the international community to focus on finding solutions.

"The unfounded allegations come from the fact that Rwanda has been hosting refugees considered hostile to Bujumbura, but we cannot send them back unless there is a fair system that will protect their lives," she said.

A confidential United Nations (UN) report that was made public this week accused Rwanda of secretly training rebels to overthrow President Nkurunziza.

The report is said to contain testimonies collected from Burundians trained by Rwanda, which implies that Rwanda is meddling in Burundi affairs, something that the Burundian government has claimed over and again.

The report cites accounts from several rebel fighters, many of them considered minors, who told UN experts that the training was done in a forest camp in Rwanda.

Rwanda's is also alleged to harbour plans to forcefully occupy Burundi and enforce rule through fuelling ethnic divisions.

Rwanda has consistently denied that it provides arms and support to groups seeking to destabilize Bujumbura, and has often stated that Burundi's government "blames others" as it seeks to deflect responsibility on the ongoing civil unrest in the country.

Burundi has suffered violence since April 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza ran and won a controversial third term.

Since then, at least 439 people have died and 240,000 fled, many of them to Rwanda, Tanzania and other neighbouring countries, according to UN.

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