The exiled leader of the opposition Front for Democracy in Burundi (FRODEBU) said the allegation that Rwanda is involved in destabilizing Burundi is a pretext to turn the political crisis in Burundi into a Hutu versus Tutsi problem.
FRODEBU leader Jean Minani said blaming Rwanda is a strategy by Burundian President Nkurunziza to deflect Burundi’s problems.
“It is the new pretext of the Burundian government who doesn’t want to go into talks, and now a new pretext to say I can’t go into negotiations because I have nothing to do there. They have no answer for our problems. We have other refugees in Tanzania, in Congo, and in Uganda. Why are only the refuges in Rwanda taking up guns to fight the Burundian government,” he said.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week that there are credible reports that Burundian refugees in Rwanda were being recruited by armed Burundian opposition leaders to participate in armed attacks on the Burundian government.
And Burundi Foreign Minister Alain Nyamitwe told VOA last week his government had evidence of Burundian refugees being recruited and conscripted into rebel groups to destabilize the country and eventually remove President Pierre Nkurunziza from power.
But Minani said the problem in Burundi is between Burundians and not between the governments of Burundi and Rwanda.
“Those who say that Rwanda is helping refugees to go to fight Nkurunziza want to say that the problem is between Rwanda and Burundi. Nkurunziza wants to make this problem an ethnic problem. But as the leader, we say the problem is not an ethnic problem. It’s a political problem; it’s a problem between one person – Nkurunziza – who wants to stay in power without any legitimacy,” Minani said.
He said anyone who thinks that it is a problem between the Tutsi and Hutus is a person who doesn’t quite understand the problems in Burundi.
Minani said his group wants to resolve the Burundian crisis through peaceful negotiations.
“We are on the way to a peaceful solution. We want a solution from negotiation, and if Rwanda can help us to negotiate peacefully, if all the East African countries can help us to find a peaceful solution we are interested in the position,” he said.
He said if no solution is found quickly, the Burundian crisis could engulf the entire East African region.
“He [President Nkurunziza] begins with Rwanda. Tomorrow it will be Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, and Congo. It is his strategy and all the international community tends to believe this man,” Minani said.
Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said in a statement last week that her government was planning on relocating Burundian refugees to other countries.
Minani said Burundian refugees are victims of what he called the “irresponsibility” of President Nkurunziza.
“Refugees are refugees; to be a refugee is not a simple thing; it’s a big problem. To make a new location for a refugee is like to kill him twice. So, if they take this solution, I say to them it is a very bad solution,” Minani said.