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Burundi Feels Vindicated by US Accusation of Rwanda

  • James Butty

FILE - Police arrest a man following grenade attacks in the capital Bujumbura, Burundi Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016.

FILE - Police arrest a man following grenade attacks in the capital Bujumbura, Burundi Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016.

Burundi says it feels vindicated now that the United States has accused the Rwandan government of involvement in destabilizing activities in Burundi.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday that there are credible reports that Burundian refugees in Rwanda are being recruited to participate in armed attacks on the Burundian government.

Burundi Foreign Minister Alain Nyamitwe said Burundi has been sounding the alarm about Rwanda for months. Nyamitwe said the United States must now take concrete action, because Rwanda's behavior is contrary to all international norms.

"For us, we say it's better later than never because we've been telling the Obama administration about this for the last seven or eight months," he said. "But of course, in the beginning we were told that we were just trying to divert the attention of the international community on Burundi toward another country. So for us, we want the U.S. to move beyond simple rhetoric and take action because those are absolute acts that disturb the peaceful existence of states; those are acts go against United Nations charter," he said.

Nyamitwe would not say what specific action Burundi would like the United States to take against Rwanda. But he said while Burundi wants to live in peace with its neighbors, it will not relent until its sovereignty is respected.

"I believe a state cannot disturb the peaceful co-existence of its neighbors and get away with it. I think that it is high time we all collectively started acting against aggressive states. We want to live in peace with our neighbors. But we want it to be known to others that Burundi will not relent until it is respected in its rights and sovereignty," Nyamitwe said.

Rwanda calls allegation 'childish'

Rwandan President Paul Kagame has dismissed as "childish" a U.N. panel report last week that Burundian refugees had been recruited at a refugee camp in eastern Rwanda in May and June 2015 and given two months of military training to remove President Nkurunziza from power.

Nyamitwe said this is not the first time Rwanda has denied accusations of supporting Burundian rebels. But he said the evidence for Rwanda's actions is there.

"All we know, and we have evidence to support our claims is that refugees have been recruited, including underage refugees and conscripted into rebel groups with the aim of attacking Burundi in order to destabilize the country and ultimately to remove the current government elected by the people," he said.

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