Burundi accuses opposition leader Alexis Sinduhije of 'terrorist acts'

Thursday September 23 2021
Alexis Sinduhije

Alexis Sinduhije, Burundi's exiled opposition politician, is pictured at a rally in Bujumbura in 2010. PHOTO | ESDRAS NDIKUMANA | AFP

By AFP

Burundi has issued an international arrest warrant against exiled opposition politician Alexis Sinduhije, accusing him of leading a group responsible for multiple "terrorist acts", the country's attorney general said.

The announcement by Sylvestre Nyandwi late Wednesday followed a string of attacks in the troubled East African nation in recent days that have left at least six dead and more than a hundred wounded.

But the warrant relates to earlier attacks, including grenade explosions and ambushes that have killed dozens and injured several since the beginning of 2020, the attorney general said.

"The investigations already carried out have revealed that these acts are committed by a band of terrorists led by (...) Alexis Sinduhije", he alleged.

"Under national and international law, these acts constitute acts of terrorism, as well as crimes against humanity."

The president of the opposition Movement for Solidarity and Development (MSD), Sinduhije lives in exile in Belgium.

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He has long been suspected by the Burundian government of being at the helm of RED-Tabara, the most active rebel group in the country -- a claim he has always denied.

Years of attacks

RED-Tabara has a rear base in South Kivu in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo and is estimated to number between 500 and 800 men.

The group emerged 10 years ago and is accused of being behind many deadly attacks or ambushes in Burundi since 2015.

In 2020, the group said it was behind a series of attacks that killed more than 40 people from the security forces and the youth league of the ruling CNDD-FDD party.

It claimed responsibility for a series of mortar blasts targeting the airport in Burundi's financial capital Bujumbura on Saturday night. No damage or casualties occurred.

Deadly grenade attacks also struck the capital Gitega on Sunday evening and Bujumbura on Monday night. The group has not commented on these.

However, the attorney general said those blasts were "linked" to the earlier attacks that Sinduhije is accused of carrying out. He did not provide further details and it was not possible to verify his claims.

The MSD on Thursday said it rejected "the unfounded accusations of a government incapable of ensuring the safety of its citizens."

"Neither our leaders, nor our members are oriented towards violence against our fellow citizens," it added.

In addition to Sinduhije, arrest warrants have also been issued against Francois Nyamoya, the MSD's secretary general based in Rwanda, and Marguerite (Maggy) Brankitse, founder of the Maison Shalom home for orphans, who lives between Rwanda and Europe.

"We ask the countries where these criminals are based to offer us their collaboration so that they are arrested and do not continue to shed the blood of their fellow citizens," Nyandwi said.

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