President Ndayishimiye: The Rwandan People Cannot Accept Being Prisoners of Their Leaders’ Decisions

Kinshasa, DRC -January 21, 2024 -During his visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for the official inauguration for the second term of President Félix Antoine Tshisekedi, Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye, as the African Union’s Champion for the Youth, Peace, and Security Agenda, delivered an address to over 500 young Congolese and Burundians at the Fleuve Hotel in Kinshasa on January 21, 2024.

President Ndayishimiye spoke candidly about the persistent tensions in the region, specifically addressing the alleged sabotages and aggressions by Rwanda. He recounted his two-year effort in negotiating with Rwandan authorities, a process he described as marred by hypocrisy. Ndayishimiye highlighted that despite Burundi voluntarily opening its borders, leading to an influx of Rwandan citizens into Burundi, the Rwandan authorities continued to conspire against Burundi, allegedly supporting Burundian rebels based in Kigali, an accusation not denied by Rwanda. This realization hit home for Ndayishimiye when RED-TABARA rebels organized attacks near Bujumbura, leading him to a moment of reflection: “When you are deceived once or twice, it’s the deceiver’s fault. But to be fooled a third time is your own.”

Addressing the young Congolese audience, who expressed concerns about security in Eastern DRC, President Ndayishimiye emphasized the importance of unity. He asserted that the Rwandan people harbor no ill will towards others, pointing the finger instead at poor leadership. “There are no bad troops, only bad leaders,” he explained, urging that the struggle must continue until the Rwandan people also start to exert pressure, rejecting the notion of being prisoners in the region due to their leaders’ misconduct.

However, this speech elicited strong reactions from the Rwandan side. Many supporters of the Kigali regime, using social media platforms, vehemently criticized the Burundian President, sometimes resorting to insults.

The first high-profile Rwandan official to respond was Olivier Nduhungirehe, the Rwandan Ambassador to the Netherlands, known for his active social media presence. On his X account (formerly known as Twitter), Nduhungirehe condemned President Ndayishimiye’s statements as unacceptable, especially given his role as the “Champion of the African Union for the Youth, Peace, and Security agenda.” He criticized Ndayishimiye for promising to assist in the overthrow of a legitimate government while representing the African Union, labeling it a gross deviation from his mandate and a blatant violation of the organization’s charter.

It’s crucial to note the historical context of these tensions. The Rwandan government has been repeatedly accused of destabilizing Burundi, most notably by allegedly supporting a failed coup against the late Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza in 2015. Most coup participants who escaped arrest fled to Rwanda, where they reportedly continued their efforts to destabilize Burundi with the support of Paul Kagame’s government.

In Kinshasa, on the afternoon of Sunday, January 21, 2024, the presidential couple of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) hosted their counterparts from Burundi. According to the X account of the Burundian Presidency, it was an opportunity to renew wishes of success for the new term of the Congolese President and to reiterate the commitment to strengthening bilateral relations between their countries.

President Ndayishimiye’s remarks in Kinshasa not only highlight the ongoing complexities and challenges within the Great Lakes region but also underscore the delicate balance of regional politics, where the actions and words of leaders can significantly impact the peace and security of neighboring nations.