13 February 2016

Rwanda: Don't Use Rwanda As a Scapegoat in Burundi Crisis


The Government of Rwanda has announced that it will begin relocating Burundian refugees who fled the ongoing conflict in their country.

The announcement follows several unfounded allegations against Rwanda in relation to the ongoing conflict in Burundi, which has forced over 75,000 Burundians to seek refuge in Rwanda.

The announcement by Rwanda has caught the international community off guard because Rwanda has a good track record and commitment of working with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to shelter refugees fleeing persecution from their countries within the region.

Indeed in reaction to the announcement, UNHCR came out to urge Rwanda to continue with its commitment to receive and protect refugees as it has done in the past.

If the international community expects Rwanda to continue with this noble cause, it should address the real causes of the conflict in Burundi, and protect Rwanda from the unfounded allegations, which seem to be endorsed by some elements within the international community.

The storm that would forcibly whirl Rwanda into Burundi's mess could be seen from a far; even long before President Nkurunziza announced plans to run for a disputed third term.

First it was news that members of the former Interahamwe militia, FDLR, had pitched camp in Burundi under the protection of powerful Burundian leaders.

Don't ask what their intentions were, but it was not just a merry excursion of crossing from their former bases in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (RDC) to our southern neighbour.

But what followed was a mass exodus of Burundians to Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Tanzania fleeing violence. So if the hospitality accorded to the refugees was not appreciated in Bujumbura but was looked upon with suspicion, then the government is doing the right thing in seeking to relocate them to third countries.

It is time all those who have been making noise flavoured in innuendo to step forward and be counted; take in the refugees and ease the burden off Rwanda's shoulders.

Whatever comes out of the latest endeavour to relocate the refugees, the ultimate destination should be Burundi. So the international community should instead help bring peace back to the country instead of helping it export its problems.

The day the guns fall silent and the marauding militia are dispersed should be what the world and Burundian authorities should be looking up to; not sweeping the issue under the carpet and start looking forward to scapegoats for their ineptitude.


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