Rebel Group Vows to Step Up Attacks Against Burundi's Government

  • Burundi Popular Forces say president must be forced into talks
  • East African nation has been rocked by more than 2-year crisis

Burundi’s army doesn’t see the new rebellion as a threat and Forebu is facing internal divisions.

Photographer: Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP via Getty Images

A Burundi rebel group vowed to intensify attacks on President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government, potentially deepening the East African country’s more than two-year political crisis.

The Burundi Popular Forces see the violence as necessary to compel Nkurunziza’s administration to join peace talks with all the country’s opposition groups, spokesman Adolphe Manirakiza said in an interview. The rebels, who include former army and police officers, were previously part of the Forebu group that claimed attacks on military sites in Burundi in the past year, he said.

“We are obliged to take military action against the powers in Bujumbura to stop the crimes that are being committed against the population by state organs,” Manirakiza said by phone from a location he wouldn’t disclose. Bujumbura is Burundi’s capital.

Landlocked Burundi has been roiled by violence that’s left hundreds of people dead and forced more than 400,000 to flee their homes since April 2015, when Nkurunziza announced he was seeking a third term. Opposition parties said his re-election violated a two-term limit set out in accords that ended a civil war. A crackdown on protests was followed by sporadic attacks on military and government officials.

The government has refused to take part in recent peace talks in neighboring Tanzania that involve armed opposition groups, including fighters it accuses of a failed coup attempt in May 2015. The head of a United Nations commission on Burundi said Aug. 21 that there was “no sign of a positive evolution” in the country and it had received reports of extra-judicial killings, torture and enforced disappearances.

Manirakiza, a former colonel in Burundi’s army, wouldn’t comment on where his group is based. A report released earlier this month by a UN group of experts in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo said Forebu had by mid-2017 become the major Burundian armed group operating in Congo. It estimated its forces at between 300 and 500 combatants in May.

Burundi’s army spokesman, Gaspard Baratuza, said by phone that the military doesn’t see the new rebellion as a threat and Forebu is facing internal divisions.

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