At least one hundred ‘assailants’ were arrested, while others rendered themselves in Cibitoke and provinces between July 10 and 13 July. During a press briefing held by the army on July 13th in Bukinanyana, a slew of hungry and docile youths were exhibited.-By Armel Uwikunze translated by J.Berchmans Siboniyo
The first thing that one notices is that the young men are wearing oridanry clothing, no uniforms. The captives are from all ages. Adults, youths and children and from all ethnic groups. Most of them look like farmers.
The first group of detainees is composed of six young people incarcerated at Ndora military camp. One of them was very happy to answer the questions of journalists and soldiers, revealing information about their journey to Burundi and the reason behind their surrender. “We have peace, despite the lies we are being fed. We don’t want to kill our brothers”, the detainee repeats tirelessly.
The ‘rebels’ tell a simple story with only slight divergences. Some say they were contacted by people they didn’t know urging them to go to Rwanda, promising them good jobs. Others say they have been arrested by unknown people on Rwandan soil. They unanimously go on saying they’ve been brought into the Nyungwe forest where they underwent a forced and quick military training, not more than three weeks. “The trainers were all Rwandans”, they say.
The second group of the detainees was composed of a hundred ‘assailants’ gathered in the Bukinanyana police station. They were sitting in rows on the grass. Some were at ease to answer journalists’ questions. Others look apathetic and release a terse response: “we were misled”. Their eyes revealing shame, instead of fear.
“Not just water to drink”
“On Friday morning, July 10th, the assailants attacked the Buyumpu military station, in Kabarore commune, Kayanza province, and the national armed forces defended themselves”, states Gaspard Baratuza, the Spokesperson of the Burundi Army. “The official battle toll is 31 killed and 170 caught alive on the side of the attackers. Six soldiers were wounded on the side of the army. One civilian soul succumbed death in the fight. “Another was wounded”, Baratuza adds.
The presumed fighters reveal they were with 500 men when they invaded Burundi on July 8th and were attacked by the military forces in the Kibira forest on July 10th. “There was a lot gun noise in all corners of the forest; we didn’t know where to flee. More than a hundred of our fellows were killed and our leaders turned around”, ensures one of them under a vigilant watching eye of the police officers and soldiers. The latter openly mock the “rebels”. “Is it you who were attacking us? Guys, war is not just water to drink”. All detainees ask for food and drinks for they have spent three days without eating or drinking.