M23 go for Burundian troops in DRC clashes

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Residents of Bambo in Rutshuru territory Eastern DRC flee as the M23 attacked the town
Burundian troops in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are getting roped into the murk of M23 rebels who accuse them of working with enemies.

The accusations arose this week in a statement by M23 who say Burundians are collaborating with armed groups that formed out of remnants of the genocidaires in Rwanda who had fled into the DRC after the end of the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994.

The accusations revisit an age-old tale of how Rwandan and Burundian armed groups have operated inside DRC.

The M23 rebels had been fighting with the Congolese army — FARDC — as well as an allied self-defence group known as Wazalendo. But roping in Burundi means the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) to which Burundian troops now serve may be up for a challenge.

“The DRC government coalition forces including FARDC, FDLR, mercenaries, militias and Burundi national defence forces have used the areas handed over to EAC to intensify their attack against the civilian population, burning villages, targeted killings, looting and destruction of properties,”reads the M23 statement issued on Tuesday.

Lawrence Kanyuka, the M23 Spokesperson, added that “the M23 is greatly concerned about the implication of an EAC chair state and ICGLR state member Burundi in violation of the ceasefire, which implies a planned conspiracy.”

Burundi rejected the assertions saying: “These slanderous assertions are a serious insult to the professionalism with which our troops carry out their missions wherever they are deployed.

“The FDNB (Burundi National Defence Force) unequivocally denies these malicious remarks made for ulterior motives. The Burundian military has never collaborated with any armed group and never intends to do so,” said Col Floribert Biyereke, spokesman for the Burundian army.

He said the accusations were made by ill-intentioned people.

“Despite the efforts made by the Burundian troops in the DRC, it is deplorable that certain ill-intentioned people,are making unfounded accusations that the Burundian troops which are deployed in North Kivu are collaborating with armed groups, training them and offering them weapons.”

Eastern DRC has over 100 armed groups, some splinters of initial groups. But there are foreign fighters too. The FDLR (known in French as Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda) for instance, is said to be an offshoot of Rwandan genocaidares. The M23 are of Rwandan ethnic communities in the DRC, which has been subject to perennial tensions between Rwanda and the DR Congo.

An earlier directive by regional leaders under the Luanda Process had agreed that all foreign fighters leave DRC and M23 surrender conquered territory in exchange for ceasefire and cantonment. Most of that has been violated. Kinshasa accuses Kigali of fomenting M23 violence while Kigali says DRC has refused to deal with the FDLR problem. Both sides deny charges levelled against them.

On Thursday November 9, the Burundian army spokesman issued a new statement claiming that the Burundian contingent had twice found itself in a conflict situation carrying supplies to Kitchanga and Mweso.

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