Rwandan President Paul Kagame has stated that the country will not offer troops to an African Union (AU) peacekeeping force proposed to be sent to Burundi, a move that could further dent the bloc’s desire to halt the spiralling violence in the central African country.
“Even with the proposed (AU) military contingent sent to Burundi, Rwanda will not be part of that. We have troops absolutely which can be deployed in many parts of the world for peacekeeping, but we are not going to be part of that,” Mr Kagame said Tuesday.
His remarks come days after AU’s deployment of peacekeepers was equated to an invasion of Burundi if they contained Rwandan soldiers, according to Burundian government spokesman Philippe Nzobonariba.
He said, “If they come altogether, they will be coming to attack Burundi with those AU troops and if they (AU troops) are coming to help, they will disarm them (Burundian refugees) and will forbid them to attack Burundi,” Mr Nzobonariba told a local radio station.
The country's legislators Monday echoed government's sentiments by unanimously rejecting AU peacekeepers, warning that the deployment would be a violation of the country's sovereignty.
Last week, the 54-member bloc said it intends to send a 5,000-strong force to protect civilians and stem killings in the country.
"Not Rwanda's problem"
The Rwandan president has been critical of the leaders in Burundi and blamed them for the escalating violence – but he dismissed external interference noting that that the deteriorating situation could only be solved “by Burundians themselves”.
“We have no extra capacity to pass around to people who don’t even want it,” Kagame said, adding that it was not Rwanda’s duty to address such issues wherever they happen, even if it is with an immediate neighbour.
“We can contribute in any way required. It is our concern but it is not our responsibility. Burundians have a responsibility to resolve their problems,” he said.
Mr Kagame also criticized Burundian leaders for trying to “suck Rwanda into their mess” by claiming that Rwanda is recruiting refugees into rebel forces opposed to President Nkurunziza’s rule.
“Refugees being recruited is a childish accusation. We asked them to carry out investigations and find out who goes where and how. We hear just specific NGOs that are always interested in creating problems for us. They are hoping they can use this for political motivations. They even talk about child soldiers,” Kagame said.
Rwanda currently hosts about 72,000 refugees that fled the violence in Burundi since President Nkurunziza was sworn in for a controversial third term.
The European Union has backed AU’s move, calling it a demonstration of strong leadership in the efforts to stop the violence in Burundi, to protect civilians and to pave the way for a political solution.