The recent clandestine deployment of Burundian soldiers in North Kivu, as part of an undisclosed military cooperation agreement signed in August in Kinshasa, has ignited controversy and sparked discussions on social media platforms.
The move follows the Burundi government’s deployment of a battalion within the East African Community’s regional force tasked with assisting Kinshasa in restoring peace in the volatile eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), home to over 200 armed groups. However, this separate and secretive deployment has raised questions and criticisms.
Sources from the Burundian military and civil society reveal that three battalions, later joined by a fourth on the past Saturday, have been covertly stationed in North Kivu under the terms of the undisclosed military agreement. Their primary mission is to support the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) in their conflict against the M23 rebels.
To maintain a low profile, these Burundian soldiers, members of the Task Force, also known as the “Force d’intervention” in French, don the uniforms of the Congolese army and operate from various Congolese military camps.
For the past two months, these Burundian forces managed their operations discreetly. However, a turn of events occurred during clashes in the Masisi territory on November 5, leading to setbacks for the Burundian soldiers, according to the same sources. The M23 rebel group recently displayed three captured Burundian soldiers, identified by their families.
In response, the Burundian organization Focode has formally identified and published photos of around fifteen soldiers killed and another fifteen captured during these engagements. The organization’s president, Pacifique Nininahazwe, currently in exile, publicly demanded explanations from Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye. “It’s a contradiction that surprises us, and we ask the president to clarify this situation because it dishonors Burundi and also the East African community.”
The situation adds complexity to the ongoing debates about regional involvement in the DRC conflict, highlighting the need for transparency and accountability in such military agreements. As the controversy unfolds, attention turns to the Burundian government for clarification and a more detailed account of the circumstances surrounding this covert military engagement.