Rwanda's interest is a stable and secure Burundi - Mushikiwabo

The Government of Rwanda spokesperson, Louise Mushikiwabo has cautioned against using Rwanda as a scapegoat for the ongoing conflict and crisis in Burundi.
Young Burundian refugees at Mahama Refugee Camp celebrate the festive season with music, dance and drama last year. (File)
Young Burundian refugees at Mahama Refugee Camp celebrate the festive season with music, dance and drama last year. (File)

The Government of Rwanda spokesperson, Louise Mushikiwabo has cautioned against using Rwanda as a scapegoat for the ongoing conflict and crisis in Burundi.

"The Burundi crisis is very serious, and of Burundi leaders' own making, and the sooner the international community focuses on that, and not look for scapegoats, the better," Mushikiwabo said in a statement from the office of the spokesperson, adding that the Burundian leaders who created the crisis are the one who should take lead in ending it for the sake of their own people.

Mushikiwabo's comments were in reaction to allegations contained in a confidential report to the United Nations Security Council accusing Rwanda of recruiting and training Burundian refugees with the goal of ousting Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza.

The report by UN experts who monitor sanctions on DR Congo - leaked Wednesday - claims that a handful of rebel fighters, told the sanctions monitors that they conducted training in a forest camp in Rwanda.

The Minister also questioned the credibility of the UN report calling for serious scrutiny of accusations solely based on unverified "testimonies" of young Burundian men found in the Congo forest with no explanation of how and why some refugees met in another country and were connected to Rwanda.

"The region cannot afford another episode of diplomatic irresponsibility. Unverified accusations have again leaked from the UN Group of Experts. This plays into hand of those who wish to externalise blame and draw out the conflict," the statement added. “The sooner the international community focuses on that, and not look for scapegoats the better!”

According to the leaked report, the rebels were from Mahama Refugee camp in Rwanda which is host to over 50,000 Burundian refugees. Close to 75,000 Burundians have fled to Rwanda since the conflict started. The Government with various partners including multiple UN agencies have been working tirelessly to make the Refugees as comfortable as possible .

The allegations come from the fact that Rwanda has been hosting refugees considered hostile to Bujumbura, but who cannot be sent back unless there is a fair system that will protect their lives.

“Assuring the people of Burundi a night sleep and overall protection is what the United Nations should be bothered with, the rest is just predictable and transparent diversion.” Using Rwanda as a scapegoat, the statement added, "undermines the diplomatic process and in the end harms most of all the people [of] Burundi who continue to suffer."

The statement added; “Now it’s important to understand that the management of refugees next door to their homeland is always complicated and the Rwandan government has had to impose very restrictive measures on Burundian refugees.”

Toward Burundi’s stability

Mushikiwabo, who is also the Minister of Foreign Affairs, said that in a difficult political environment, Rwanda has worked tirelessly to treat refugees as decently as possible and will continue to work with other partners in the region and beyond to achieve stability in Burundi.

Jean-Bosco Kwibishatse, the Mahama refugee representative, also dismissed the claims of recruiting and training Burundian refugees from Mahama camp.

“Our focus is working hard to see that our children get education as we are getting involved in vocational activities to better their lives in the camp,” Kwibishatse told Saturday Times yesterday.

“I feel that the false report is a strategy aimed at tarnishing us who sought refuge in Rwanda, tarnishing Rwanda as a country so that they can hide the killings and human rights violations that are happening in Burundi.”

Damning EALA report

Meanwhile, a recent report of the East African Legislative Assembly’s Committee on Regional Affairs and Conflict Resolution on the deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation in Burundi also said there was no adequate evidence to prove claims that Rwanda is hosting and militarily training Burundi refugees.

The regional lawmakers recommended enhanced mechanisms and processes instituted within the EAC for handling peace and security matters in the region.

Speaking to Saturday Times yesterday, Martin Ngoga, EALA regional affairs and conflict resolution committee member, said the committee presented to the House the report after conducting public hearing that involved the stakeholders in the situation.

“It was supported and adopted by the Assembly. My hope and which I believe I share with other members is that the report makes a contribution toward collective efforts by the community to resolve the ongoing crisis in Burundi,” said Ngoga.

He said the committee noted that that there were serious and sufficient grounds to believe that gross human rights violations have taken place and continue to take place in Burundi unabated.

“The petitioners’ and other parties that appeared before the committee, including from the government delegation, all agreed on this fact,” Ngoga said.

They only disagree on the magnitude, responsibility and how to end the violations, according to the report.

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