Burundi Accuses Rwanda of Backing Deadly Rebel Attack in Gatumba

Burundi’s President Evariste Ndayishimiye

Burundi’s President accused Rwanda of supporting rebels responsible for an attack in Gatumba, near the Burundi-Congo border. This attack tragically resulted in at least 20 fatalities.

The assailants, identified as the armed rebel group RED-Tabara, based in South Kivu in eastern Congo, have claimed responsibility for this attack, initially announced on X, a platform formerly known as Twitter. Despite denying any intent to harm civilians, RED-Tabara acknowledged the killing of nine soldiers and one police officer.

Regarded as a terrorist organization by Burundian authorities, RED-Tabara first emerged in 2011 and has since been implicated in numerous assaults within Burundi, starting from 2015.

In a statement broadcasted on national radio, President Evariste Ndayishimiye alleged that RED-Tabara receives substantial support from Rwanda, including food, shelter, and logistical as well as financial assistance.

President Ndayishimiye also revealed that Burundi’s efforts over the past two years to negotiate with Rwanda for the extradition of these rebels have been unsuccessful. He emphasized the challenges faced by Burundi as long as these rebels continue to receive support from another nation.

Rwanda’s government has not yet responded to these allegations. However, it has previously stated its inability to extradite individuals under the protection of the U.N. refugee agency.

The relationship between the two Central African nations had seen improvement following President Ndayishimiye’s rise to power in June 2020, leading to the reopening of their borders.

The Gatumba attack, denounced by Burundi as a terrorist act, led to the burial of some victims last Tuesday. Burundi has also engaged Interpol for assistance in capturing those responsible.

In a related development, Burundi dispatched soldiers to eastern Congo last August, joining a regional force aimed at countering the resurgence of the M23 rebel group. There were speculations that this force might target RED-Tabara. However, the East African Community’s regional force is now being gradually withdrawn from eastern Congo amid criticisms that it failed to disarm the rebels and instead coexisted with them.