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START-PAGE

Report: Burundi refugees in Rwanda recruited to fight

Burundi
Burundi

 

Burundian refugees in Rwanda say they are being forcibly recruited by Burundian opposition groups and sent to military training camps in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, allegedly with the knowledge of Rwandan security officials, according to a new report from the advocacy group Refugees International.Unlawful recruitment of refugees has been reported for months in the Mahama refugee camp, which shelters at least 46,000 Burundian refugees fleeing political violence in Burundi. The new allegations, sourced from interviews with international officials and confidential transcripts of interviews with targeted refugees, suggest an “aggressive” scale of recruitment, including of minors, and the complicity of Rwandan authorities.

International officials told investigators for Refugees International that recruits have been taken from the camp and sent to Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda’s Nyungwe Forest National Park, in the southwest. There, “hundreds of Burundian adult and child recruits (including girls) were reportedly housed” and given weapons training, the report said.

According to more than a dozen groups of refugees living in Mahama, recruiters began to approach potential recruits as early as May, telling them they would be fighting on behalf of Burundi’s exiled opposition against President Pierre Nkurunziza. They said they were instructed to attend informational “meetings” in the camp run by one of several Burundian opposition parties, and threatened if they did not acquiesce.

Rwandan police officers were present at some of the meetings, which were held after international aid staff had left Mahama for the day, the report said. Witnesses also told international aid officials that Rwandan police officers watched as recruits who agreed to join military training boarded shuttles out of Mahama and that Rwandan military vehicles were used in some cases.
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