Burundian Civil Society Seeks $3 Billion in Damages from Rwanda for RED-Tabara Victims

Six Burundian civil society organizations have filed a lawsuit against Rwanda at the East African Court of Justice, seeking compensation for the tragic loss of lives during an attack attributed to the militant group RED-Tabara. This legal action was initiated following an incident on the evening of December 22, 2023, where 20 civilians were reportedly killed. The groups involved in the lawsuit include Acopa Burundi, FOLUCON.F, OSC Burundi, Ligue Izere Ntiwihebure, Onlct “où est ton frère”, Pisc -Burundi, and ABA, who collectively demand a sum of $3 billion USD.

The attack is said to be connected to longstanding tensions between the two nations, with the Burundian government labeling RED-Tabara as a byproduct of Rwandan support. During a public address on December 29, 2023, in Cankuzo Province, President Evariste Ndayishimiye of Burundi accused Rwanda of providing shelter, supplies, and funding to RED-Tabara.

This conflict traces back further to reports from 2016 when Burundian refugees allegedly provided testimonies in a confidential report to the United Nations Security Council. These testimonies claimed that recruitment and military training were conducted by Rwanda with the intent to destabilize the Burundian government. According to these reports, the recruitment occurred in Mahama refugee camp in eastern Rwanda during May and June 2015, with the training provided by Rwandan military personnel among others.

Furthermore, this situation has garnered attention from international observers, including United Nations experts monitoring sanctions in the Democratic Republic of Congo. These experts have interviewed 18 Burundian fighters in South Kivu province, who confirmed their recruitment and subsequent military training in Rwanda.

The lawsuit represents a significant escalation in the ongoing dispute between Rwanda and Burundi, highlighting regional instability and the broader implications for East African community relations. The outcome of this legal challenge could potentially influence future diplomatic and security dynamics within the region.