Congo Siasa

Congo-Burundi tensions

I’m just getting up to speed with a recent Burundi-Congo unofficial security meeting that took place about three weeks ago. On September 10th, seven Burundian soldiers were handed over to the Burundian authorities by a Congolese delegation that included the governor of South Kivu, Marcellin Cisambo, and Amani Leo deputy commander Col. Delphin Kahimbi. In return, the Burundian government handed over three Congolese soldiers.

The Burundian rebels apparently all belonged to the MSD party, which during the recent elections was led by Alexis Sinduhije. It is important to point out that Sinduhije has denounced violence and that, according to analysts in Burundi, may not control many of the more radical elements in his party, some of whom include Tutsi youth close to the former sans echec militia. According to diplomats who interviewed the captured soldiers, they were on their way to join the FRF Banyamulenge militia in the High Plateau of South Kivu. They also said that they were not the first group to have crossed the border.

Since Pierre Nkurunziza won reelection in June this year and his government has cracked down on the opposition. Some members of the FNL rebellion have returned to the bush, while their leader Agathon Rwasa is often reported to be in the eastern Congo.

Several meetings had taken place in the run-up to this meeting, not all of them cordial. Burundian government officials accused the Congolese of complicity in FNL and MSD crossings into the Congo. There have been several attacks of civilian vehicles in the Rusizi Plain, across the border from Burundi, in past weeks, allegedly carried out by FNL crossing from Burundi.

Relations between Congo and Burundi have been somewhat strained due to this, as well as the fact that President Kabila still has connections to a dissident faction of the ruling CNDD-FDD led by Hussein Rajabu, who is in jail in Bujumbura. Kabila did not attend Nkurunziza’s inauguration and Burundi was one of the countries named in the recent UN mapping report for human rights abuses. However, the FNL are allegedly linking up with the FDLR in the Kivus, which is probably not in Kabila’s immediate interest, and Nkurunziza is a close ally of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who in turn is close to Kabila these days. My guess is that any Congo-FNL-MSD collaboration will be more of an opportunistic, local nature for the moment.