Protesters prepare to throw stones at policemen during a protest against Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza, in Bujumbura, Burundi, on May 20. (Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)
The Nov. 14 editorial “Burundi nears the brink” correctly warned of the potential for mass atrocities in Burundi caused by that government’s actions and its language inciting further violence. Equally dangerous are the actions of neighboring Rwanda, whose government in recent months has secretly recruited an army of Burundian refugees presumably for the purpose of conducting an armed insurgency inside Burundi.Since June, Rwandan officials have allegedly been carrying out the conscription of Burundians from Mahama refugee camp in southeast Rwanda. Until two weeks ago, I worked for five months as a U.N. official in that refugee camp and dealt firsthand with the intimidating power of the military recruitment effort. U.N. officials and the U.S. government are aware of the Rwandan government’s recruitment campaign.
The invasion of Burundi by a rebel army from Rwanda would transform Burundi’s current political violence into an ethnic bloodbath. This scenario must be avoided at all costs in a region where far more than 1 million Burundians and Rwandans have perished in multiple cycles of mass atrocities since the 1970s. The governments of Burundi and Rwanda are playing a dangerous game.
Jeff Drumtra, Fort Washington