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Rwanda will ‘talk’ to Burundi over FDLR after current crisis

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Rwanda’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Co-operation, Louise Mushikiwabo. FILE PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By IVAN R. MUGISHA, TEA Special Correspondent

Posted  Saturday, November 21   2015 at  18:17

In Summary

  • Rwanda will seek clarity from Bujumbura over the alleged crossing of the Democratic Republic of Congo-based rebels into Burundi.
  • Burundi stated that it does not need to ally with the rebels since the country has “sufficient capabilities to defend itself against any aggressor.” It added that Rwanda does not have proof of FDLR’s presence in Burundi.
  • The Burundi government raised a counter-accusation, saying Kigali provided false documents to Rwandans to travel to Burundi and fight alongside forces opposed to President Pierre Nkurunziza’s regime.

Rwanda will seek clarity from Bujumbura over the alleged crossing of the Democratic Republic of Congo-based rebels into Burundi.

Rwanda’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Co-operation, Louise Mushikiwabo, disclosed this in a telephone interview on Thursday. She was reacting to an official statement from the Burundi government that said “there has never been FDLR on Burundi territory and never will they be.”

This was in reference to the DRC-based Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) militants. FDLR, which has been active since 2000, is composed of fugitive Rwandan Hutu rebels that participated in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Burundi stated that it does not need to ally with the rebels since the country has “sufficient capabilities to defend itself against any aggressor.” It added that Rwanda does not have proof of FDLR’s presence in Burundi.

“Burundi is currently in crisis and we cannot afford to go into counter-accusations, back and forth,” said Ms Mushikiwabo. “As I have said before, we want to deal with them when they are back on track.

“We raised this issue even before the crisis in Burundi began. When they have fixed their serious issues, we will approach them and talk about this (FDLR) issue.

“We don’t want to pile it onto their load. We will have time to discuss the issues.”

In a recent interview with Die Tageszeitung, a German newspaper, Ms Mushikiwabo said that when the crisis in Burundi began, members of the FDLR crossed from South Kivu to Burundi. She hinted that they could be getting protection from the Burundi government.

Burundi however reiterated that Rwanda has no evidence for its claims and that a report by International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) experts presented on June 6 to member states concluded that there were no FDLR in Burundi.

The Burundi government raised a counter-accusation, saying Kigali provided false documents to Rwandans to travel to Burundi and fight alongside forces opposed to President Pierre Nkurunziza’s regime.

“Some of those Rwandans who were arrested or killed in combat had on them false Burundi ID cards,” Burundi said in a statement. “This evidence of the Rwandan aggression to Burundi has been provided to the AU and to the UNSC (United Nations Security Council).

“All the rhetoric on Burundi by Rwandan authorities is meant to seek the support of Western powers to destabilise Burundi on their behalf and, therefore, fool the international community about the real problems of Rwanda.”

Ms Mushikiwabo said the rebel group is “not a military threat to Rwanda” but a threat nevertheless for “maintaining and spreading the genocide ideology, especially in the region.”