Since , the Burundian army has sent hundreds of soldiers and members of the ruling party youth league, the Imbonerakure, into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Their main target is the Burundian armed opposition group RED-Tabara, which has launched sporadic attacks in Burundi in recent years.
The Burundi Human Rights Initiative’s report, “An operation of deceit: Burundi’s secret mission in Congo”, documents the Burundian military operation in the DRC, placing it in the context of a trend towards increased militarisation in Burundi.
There is an official silence surrounding the military operation. Soldiers and Imbonerakure have crossed the border in a clandestine way, usually at night, and have been warned not to talk about their mission.
The operation was painfully ill-prepared. Some Imbonerakure received very little advance information. Many Imbonerakure and Burundian soldiers have been killed or injured in the fighting. Burundian soldiers, Imbonerakure and members of Congolese armed groups with whom they formed alliances are reported to have committed serious abuses against Congolese civilians.
In parallel with this operation, Révérien Ndikuriyo, the secretary general of the ruling party, the CNDD-FDD, has been touring Burundi, mobilising Imbonerakure through hardline and incendiary speeches aimed at securing the CNDD-FDD’s long-term dominance across the country. Large numbers of Imbonerakure have attended training courses in “patriotism”.
The combination of these developments should concern international actors, as it could signal a backsliding towards a more militaristic and repressive form of governance in advance of Burundi’s next elections in and .
The report is available in English and French. An audio summary of the report is available in Kirundi.