Nairobi: At least 99 people have been killed in Burundi after clashes broke out last week between an unidentified rebel group and government troops in Cibitoke province.
The clashes, which lasted for at least four days, erupted when militants attacked areas along Burundi’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
According to Colonel Gaspard Baratuza, spokesman for the Burundi National Defense Forces (FDN), 95 attackers, two soldiers and two civilians were killed.
The FDN linked these attacks to the presidential elections scheduled for June and said they believe the rebels’ intent was to establish a base in the northern region of Kibira.
But local media such as Iwacu newspaper sharply criticised the government for imposing “silence” and “censorship” on the incident by refusing to identify the rebels.
The secretary-general of the opposition ADC-Ikibiri party, Leonce Ngendakumana, criticised the way the government handled the crisis and accused the army of extra-judicial executions of captured rebels, according to the paper.
Political tensions have escalated in Burundi, where President Pierre Nkurunziza is under pressure to run for a third term in June, a move his opponents claim would violate the country’s constitution.
After Burundi gained independence from Belgium in 1962, the African country’s history has been marked by the ethnic violence that peaked in 1972 when the Tutsi-dominated army conducted several genocidal campaigns against the Hutu, and was followed by another wave of mass murder by the Hutu against the Tutsi in 1993.