The Rwandan government is now paying much
closer attention to events in Burundi. Burundi and Rwanda are very similar in
demographics a majority Hutu population with a comparatively wealthy Tutsi minority. While this may seem like now news a country
should always pay attention to events next door the Rwandan government
actually has the 1994 genocide as a riveting reason to pay attention to
Burundi. In 1992 fighting between Hutus and Tutsis escalated in Burundi.
Atrocities committed by Burundian Tutsi security forces against Burundian Hutus
inflamed Hutus in Rwanda. Of course there were attacks by Burundian Hutus on
Tutsis. The point is inter-tribal violence fed tribal passions next door. The
increase in violence in Burundi is thus especially worrisome to Rwanda. There
are some differences of course between 2008 and 1994. There are still
peacekeepers in Burundi; the small peacekeeping force in Burundi operates under
the auspices of the African Union.
January 9, 2008: The Burundian Army said
that three of its soldiers were wounded in a firefight with a group of
Palipehutu-FNL rebels. Five FNL rebels were killed in the battle. An FNL
spokesman said the government story was false. The FNL fighters were "looking
for food" when they were attacked by soldiers. Both the government and FNL
agreed that the firefight took place near the town of Musigati. As with so many
of these incidents in Africa, the wire services and internet rely on the
statements of the government and then the rebel groups. The best check on both
of these clearly self-interested sources is information gleaned from NGOs. While
these groups often have agendas and slants, the best NGO sources rely on
reports from relief personnel on the scene and refugees. Those, too, can be
confused, but at least it is another side of the story.
January 5, 2008: Last year, about
40,000 Burundian refugees returned from camps in Tanzania, and all those camps (housing
110,000 Burundians and 100,000 Congolese) are expected to be closed this year.
Meanwhile, at least 10,000 Congolese have fled to Burundi. There, they are fed
and housed by foreign aid groups, which also provide food aid to over 60,000
Burundians. Many of those receiving aid are returning refugees. In the last six
years, nearly 400,000 Burundians have returned from refugee camps in
January 1, 2008: In Burundi, a French
relief worker was murdered and a second wounded in an attack by a gunman. The
attack took place in Ruyigi (east of Bujumbura). Direct attacks on aid workers
such as this are rare. But robbery isn't rare. Concern is rising throughout
Burundi about increased violence. The government has attributed the rise in
violence to Palipehutu-FNL faction that has quit the peace process (the JVMM
The Joint Verification and Monitoring Mechanism in Burundi). Whatever the
reason for the attack on the air workers, the murder sows fear among NGOs.
Impoverished Burundi is especially dependent on medical aid NGOs.
December 23, 2007: A second company of
100 Burundian Army soldiers deployed to Somalia. That makes 200 Burundian
soldiers either in Somalia or enroute. Burundi has said it will eventually send
1700 soldiers to Somalia.