BURUNDI-DRC: Army repels Interahamwe militiamen
Bujumbura, 4 August 2004 (IRIN) - Burundian government troops have succeeded in repelling an unknown number of Rwandan militiamen who crossed into Burundi from neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo, army spokesman Maj Adolphe Manirakiza said on Tuesday.
He said the Interahamwe militiamen had fled across the River Rusizi at the Buganda Commune of Burundi's northwestern Cibitoke Province, bordering Congo. He said the invaders were flushed out after security forces prevented them from getting food supplies from the Congo.
The army engaged the Interahamwe on Sunday after local residents reported the rebel presence in the area, he said. The army seized a rocket launcher, three sacks of ammunition, and cooking materials.
A Buganda resident told IRIN that the army had used heavy machine guns against the Interahamwe, prompting some residents to flee momentarily. Cibitoke Governor Antoine Buzuguri said on Wednesday that villagers had since returned to their homes because the fighting had stopped.
In July, some 160 Interahamwe militiamen entered Burundi from the Congo but soon retreated into the Burundi's Kibira Forest, via the Cibitoke communes of Rugombo, Mugina and Mabayi.
Thousands of Interahamwe militiamen, and Rwandan government soldiers now known as the ex-FAR, fled their country in 1994 fearing prosecution for their involvement in the genocide in which, according to the most recent government statistics, 937,000 Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were killed.
During his visit to Burundi in June, Congolese Vice-President Azarias Ruberwa proposed a joint security programme involving Rwanda, Burundi and the Congo to help neutralise what he called "negative forces", including the Interahamwe militia.
Since 1994, the ex-FAR and the Interahamwe have been using eastern Congo to staging attacks on Rwanda. The government in Kigali has, on more several occasions, threatened to re-enter Congo if the UN peacekeeping mission there, known as MONUC, and the Congolese government fail to take stronger action to neutralise the Rwandan rebels.