NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Burundi’s president on Friday accused Rwanda of funding and training rebels behind last week’s attack in the village of Gatouba, near Burundi’s border with Congo, that killed at least 20 people.
An armed Burundian rebel group known as RED-Tabara and based in South Kivu, in eastern Congo, claimed responsibility for the attack in a post on X, formerly Twitter. The group, which denied targeting civilians, claimed to have killed nine soldiers and one policeman.
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Burundian authorities consider RED-Tabara a terrorist movement. The group first emerged in 2011 and has been blamed for a series of attacks in Burundi since 2015.
In a national radio broadcast, President Evariste Ndayishimiye claimed that the RED-Tabara are “fed, protected, housed and supported logistically and financially by … Rwanda”.
Ndayishimiye said Burundi has been unsuccessfully negotiating with Rwanda for two years, seeking the extradition of the rebels.
“As long as they have a country that supplies them with uniforms, feeds them, shelters them, protects them, sustains them, we’re going to have problems,” he said.
There was no immediate reaction from the Rwandan government to Ndayishimiye’s accusations, but it has previously said it cannot extradite people under the protection of the UN refugee agency.
Relations between the two Central African neighbors improved with Ndayishimiye taking power in June 2020 and the border between them reopened.
Some of those killed in the attack in Gatuba – which Burundi called an act of terrorism and said it had contacted Interpol to ask for its help in catching the attackers – were buried on Tuesday.
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In August last year, Burundi deployed troops to eastern Congo as part of a regional force invited by Congo to counter the resurgence of the M23 rebel group there. Some observers believed that Burundian troops from the East African Community’s seven-nation force would be used to crush RED-Tabara.
However, the East African Regional Force is currently being phased out of violence-plagued eastern Congo after complaints from locals and authorities that instead of disarming the rebels, the forces were co-opting them.