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Burundi blasts Rwanda's 'meddling'

Chrispin Mwakideu March 29, 2016

Just days before Rwanda marks the 1994 genocide, accusations by Burundi that Rwandan President Paul Kagame wants to "export" genocide have taken relations between the two neighbors to a new low.

Burundi Ban Ki-moon and Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza.
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo

While presiding over a ceremony for new military chiefs on Tuesday (29.03.16), Rwandan President Paul Kagame said global security was worsening by the day. "People need to work together and we need to complement each other. Rwanda is committed to peace and security in our country, the region and beyond," Kagame said.

An editorial by Rwanda's daily, The New Times, published on Tuesday (29.03.16) had the title: 'The Rwandan spirit will prevail against Genocide revisionism'. The editorial criticized Burundi's ruling CNDD-FDD party, after its leader Pascal Nyabenda accused Kagame of seeking to "export" genocide.

In a statement, the head of the CNDD-FDD party said that the genocide laboratory was in Rwanda and that Kagame having "experimented" with it there "wants to export it to Burundi to play a minor imperialist."

Nkurunziza (C) and Kagame (L) with Tanzania's former president Kikwete at a past regional conference
Nkurunziza (C) and Kagame (L) with Tanzania's former president Kikwete at a past regional conferenceImage: Getty Images/AFP/T. Karuma

Burundi has witnessed increasing violence since April 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza insisted on running for a third term. He went on to win the July election but has so far failed to end the impasse. More than 400 people have been killed while 250,000 have fled their homes according to the UN.

Timing of Burundi's accusations

The News Times editorial also took offense with the fact that such serious allegations from a top Burundian official came just days before Rwanda commemorates the 1994 genocide. The annual event is due on April 7. Nearly 800,000 people most of them ethnic Tutsis were killed in a span of 100 days.

In an exclusive interview with DW, Burundi's Foreign Minister Alain Aime Nyamitwe said Bujumbura had evidence that Rwanda is violating its sovereignty. Nyamitwe said they were considering filing a lawsuit against Rwanda at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

He said it is a right of any country to go into litigation when its sovereignty is being harassed or violated. "In the case of Burundi, we have evidence that suggests that indeed Rwanda as a State has violated our sovereignty and dignity of our people," Nyamitwe said. "Any moment we might be forced to file a lawsuit [against Rwanda]."

Burundi alleges that Rwanda is training some of the Burundian refugees currently in Rwanda to return home and start an insurgency. Accusations that Kigali has constantly denied.

DW's efforts to reach the Rwandan government for comment on Burundi's allegations were unsuccessful.

Worsening ties

Relations between the two neighbors have recently soured with each country accusing the other of meddling in its internal affairs. Yolande Bouka, a researcher on Burundi at the Institute for Security Studies in Nairobi, told DW, Burundi's recent allegation particularly that of Kagame seeking to export genocide was a cause for concern.

"I think we need to be very careful when we read this language, most importantly the language is revisionist. It's accusing President Kagame of having organized the genocide in Rwanda which we know is not true. It's been documented through various court proceedings, domestically in Rwanda and internationally in Arusha and other countries in the world," Bouka said.

Kagame's reputation

Burundian top diplomat Nyamitwe insisted that Rwanda had trespassed and that Kigali should be prepared to bear the consequences of its actions. "A country that violates the borders of another sovereign state must be ready to face trial if need."

Rwandan strongman Kagame is perceived by some countries as one who meddles in the affairs of other nations. The United Nations has on several occasions accused Rwanda of supporting rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. In February, the UN and the US accused Rwanda of "destabilizing activities" in strife-torn Burundi.

Ruanda President Paul Kagame.
The UN accuses Rwanda's President Paul Kagame of 'meddling' in BurundiImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/S. Senne

"There is no denying that the Rwandan government does not have a good reputation with regard to respect of sovereignty of other neighbors," Bouka, an expert on the region said. "That being said, the language being used by the CNDD-FDD is completely unwarranted given the fact that the genocide itself in Rwanda is a topic that is very controversial."