A protester wears grass around his face to obscure his identity
during a protest against President Pierre Nkurunziza's decision to run
for a third term, in Bujumbura, Burundi.
edged closer toward a civil war Thursday with the announcement of the
launch of a new rebel group that aims to oust President Pierre
A former senior officer in Burundi’s army told
The Associated Press that he and other army officers have formed a
rebel movement known as the Republican Forces of Burundi to remove
Nkurunziza from power.
The new rebel group’s main objective is to
protect Burundians who are being killed because they are protesting the
violation of the country’s constitution by Nkurunziza who extended his
time in power, said Lt. Col. Edouard Nshimirimana, who was in charge of
military transmissions and communications before he defected in
Burundi has been rocked by turmoil since April
when it was announced that Nkurunziza would run for a third term in
office. Nkurunziza won elections in July but the violence has since
The rebel force was behind the recent attacks
on three military camps, where they captured enough weapons to fight
Burundi’s army, said Nshimirimana, who trained at ISCAM, a military
school in Burundi, and was commander of the 17 Battalion.
At least 87 people were killed in Bujumbura in
December when rebels attacked two military barracks in Bujumbura and
one in Mujejuru in the Bujumbura Rural province.
More than 400 people have been killed in
Burundi and some 220,000 have fled to neighbouring countries since
April. Violent street protests in opposition to Nkurunziza staying in
power boiled over into a failed military coup in May. The leader of the
coup, Godefroid Niyombare, is at large but a former defence minister is
among 28 officials facing trial for the failed overthrow.
The other objective of the rebellion is to
protect the Arusha Agreement that limits Burundian presidents to two
terms in office, said Nshimirimana. All forces against Nkurunziza are
united under the Republican Forces of Burundi, Nshimirimana said.
“We have no choice and the world is not helping Burundians who are being killed, he said.
“We are calling on all Burundians who believe
in the rule of law to join us,” Nshimirimana said, adding that many
soldiers of various ranks who are suspected of opposing Nkurunziza’s
third term in office, have been harassed, arrested and in some cases
killed by members of security services.
The Arusha Agreement ended Burundi’s 13-year
civil war 10 years ago and integrated former Hutu rebels into the
Tutsi-dominated army to create a more ethnically balanced force.
“The Arusha Agreement was the solution to
Burundi’s political problems. Now that it has collapsed, the war is
inevitable,” Nshimirimana told THE ASSOCIATED PRESS.
The Arusha Agreement introduced power-sharing
quotas in the government institutions and military forces, with the
objective of protecting the minority Tutsis by giving them a
disproportionately large share of power in government. Tutsis make up
about 14 per cent of Burundi’s 10 million people, while the Hutu make up
about 85 per cent.
Although Burundi’s current unrest has been
based on political divisions, there is growing international concern
that the country threatens to descend into ethnic violence, such as
neighbouring Rwanda’s 1994 genocide by majority Hutus against the
Burundi’s army, spokesman Col. Gaspard
Baratuza, was not immediately available for comment but had earlier said
after Nshimirimana’s defection that Burundi had a force of 30,000 army
capable of defending the country.