By Jean Gatera
In the early morning hours of last Saturday, unidentified gunmen attacked a Rwandan Army defensive position at the Rwanda-Burundi border. These gunmen – about 100 of them according to RDF Spokesman Lt. Col. Innocent Munyengango – crossed the border through the dense bordering Nyungwe forest (Kibira on the Burundian side).
It was not the first time armed terrorist have attacked Rwanda from Burundi.
“For some years, Burundi has hosted a number of Rwandan terrorist groups”, a regional analyst said, adding: “as far back as 2009, a UN Group of Experts report pinned Burundi as a rear base for groups like FDLR”.
In 2009, the UN Group of Expert (UNGoE) of 2009, S/2009/603, directly named Burundian security officials as collaborators of the FDLR. The report provided what was termed “damming evidence”. Burundian officials like Gen. Adolphe Nshimirimana – former Director of the Burundian intelligence – and his then chief of staff Gen. Agricole Ntirampeba were reported to be in constant communication with senior FDLR officials like Maj. Mazuru.
FDLR long ago was designated an international terrorist group.
The UNGoE investigation had obtained call records that showed 13 calls between Ntirampeba and Mazuru. It also discovered that Burundi was arming FDLR – an offshoot group of Ex-FAR and Interahamwe militias that were the main perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Bujumbura was reported to have provided FDLR an arms consignment of 40,000 assault rifles.
Nine years later, on 31 December 2018, the UN Group of Experts released yet another damning report that showed Burundi (together with Uganda) as facilitators and supporters of yet more anti-Rwanda terrorist groups, the so called “P5” that composed of RNC, FDLR, RUD-Urunana, and FLN among others.
The 2018 report described in minute detail how Burundi facilitated the terrorist groups. It named the involvement of two terrorists, Rashid aka Sunday Charles based in Bujumbura, and Shaka Nyamusaraba in Minembwe, eastern DRC in involvement in the transportation of arms shipments and rebel recruits to “P5” positions in Minembwe – with the recruits mainly originating from Uganda, where the country’s intelligence agencies have been heavily involved.
With the arrest, and deportation to Rwanda of senior RNC commander Habib Mudathiru with 25 fellow RNC fighters, they provided more details of the “P5” support network.
The capture of Mudathiru and the others happened following a heavy military rout of RNC on Congolese territory.
By June 2018, a different terrorist group that also operates from Burundi had begun to launch cross border attacks, under the cover of the dense Nyungwe forest. It called itself FLN and was led by one Callixte Nsabimana who regularly claimed responsibility for the terror attacks on Facebook. In May 2019, Nsabimana was arrested, to face trial for his crimes. During the trial he revealed the support of Burundian security agents for FLN. “I confess to all charges, even those I was indirectly involved in. But I would like to make this clear: our operations from Burundi were with the knowledge of army Gen. Bertin (Aka Moses) who is Burundi’s External Intelligence Officer”, Nsabimana told court.
In October 2019, in the Mudathiru and his 25 co-accused also disclosed that while in Burundi they were received, and facilitated by Senior Burundian military officers including Col. (now Brig. Gen.) Ignace Sibomana, “Chief J2”, and one Maj. Bertin who is in charge of External Intelligence.
These revelations corroborated the December 2018 UNGoE report, though Burundian officials tried to deny everything. The reports were painstakingly gathered with audio, and documented evidence.
On the recent attack – which the Burundian Government has denied saying it “can’t allow its soil to be used to attack neighbors.” However, regional analysts point out that “the evidence that it is Burundi is just overwhelming.”
On the scene, where four of the attackers were killed and three captured alive, their equipment clearly showed Burundi Army labels: Dry rations were clearly marked “Force de Defense Nationale du Burundi” (Burundi National Defense Force).