The United States accused Rwanda Wednesday of involvement in “destabilizing activities” in strife-torn Burundi, including the recruitment of refugees for armed attacks against the government.
The US concerns were raised in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by two top diplomats, who cited reports from colleagues in the field that point to Rwandan involvement in the Burundi crisis.
“There are credible reports of recruitment of Burundian refugees out of camps in Rwanda to participate in armed attacks by Burundian armed opposition against the Burundian government,” said Thomas Perriello, US envoy for the Great Lakes region of Africa.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US assistant secretary of state for African affairs, told the senators” “We have seen a number of reports from our colleagues in the field that suggest (that) the Rwandan government has been involved in destabilizing activities in Burundi.”
It is the first time the United States has publicly accused the government in Kigali of involvement in the crisis in neighboring Burundi.
kThe United States historically has been an ally of Rwanda, but relations between the two have chilled in recent years.
Burundi has been in turmoil since President Pierre Nkurunziza announced plans in April to run for a third term, which he went on to win.
More than 400 people have died since then and at least 230,000 have fled the country.
Relations between Rwanda and Burundi are at a low point, with Bujumbura accusing Kigali of supporting its opponents and serving as a rear base for a nascent insurgency.
Rwanda rejects the accusations.
A UN panel reported last week that Burundian refugees had been recruited at a refugee camp in eastern Rwanda in May and June 2015, and given two months of military training.
The refugees said their “ultimate goal” was to remove Nkurunziza from power, according to the report.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame has dismissed the accusations as “childish.”