New rebel group attacks Burundi

Saturday November 03 2012

Burundian soldiers on a patrol near Bujumbura during a crackdown on a rebel group four years ago. Picture:File

Fighters of a new rebel Burundi group crossed from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and attacked the western part of the country, The East African has learnt.

In an action that could further complicate the volatile situation in eastern DRC, about 100 members of a group calling itself the Murundi People’s Front-Abatabazi (FPM-Abatabazi), attacked the Murwi, Bukinanyana, and Mabayi communes in Cibitoke Province in western Burundi.

Fidele Nzambiyakira, of the FPM-Abatabazi later claimed responsibility for the attacks, which he described as “a revolution” against the ruling National Council for the Defence of Democracy-Forces For the Defence of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) government of President Pierre Nkurunziza.

There were no reported casualties, and in Bujumbura the view is that the attacks had no immediate impact on the stability of the country and posed no threat to President Nkurunziza’s regime. Long term, though, should FPM-Abatabazi grow, Burundi, DRC, and faraway Somalia where the country forms part of the core of the African Union peacekeeping force AMISOM, could pay a price.

To begin with, FPM is very quite different from previous rebel groups because it is composed of both Tutsi soldiers and elements from Union of Patriotic Revolutionaries (UPR) composed of a mixture of former FNL and CNDD-FDD combatants.

The Forces for National Liberation (FNL) was the last Hutu rebel group to sign an agreement with Burundi in September 2006. And CNND-FDD, was the largest Hutu rebel group when it signed a 2003 peace deal with the Tutsi-controlled Burundi then, and put the country on the turnaround path on which it remains today. The CNND-FDD won elections in 2005, and has stayed put since.


However, according to analyses seen by The East African, the struggle for the political spoils in Burundi has divided Hutu political parties, particularly the two largest groups, the CNDD-FDD and the FNL.

The October 22 attacks came as the President Nkurunziza government faced mounting criticism by local and international human rights groups that extrajudicial killings were continuing in the country.

The East African has learnt that the human rights organisations believe that the extrajudicial killings have mainly been conducted by members of the security services, and that they are likely to have orchestrated the October 22 attacks. Some people who have escaped attacks and crossed into the DRC have claimed that the CNDD-FDD was trying to eliminate rival supporters ahead of presidential elections in 2015.

The Burundian National Defence Force (BNDF) spokesman, Col Gaspard Baratuza, said pressure being exerted on “bandits” in the DRC from joint Burundian and Congolese operations were forcing rebels to flee and attempt to establish bases in Burundi.

But that account is disputed, and sources claim that the BNDF has also crossed into the DRC without official invitation, despite claims by its spokesman to the contrary, and that some troops were killed in DRC during an ambush by FNL supporters.

Analysts think that whatever the truth, these recent developments will affect how the political events in eastern DRC are playing out.