Rumours cause army officers to desert, says the army spokesman

Four Burundian army officers have deserted after the completion of their studies in Ethiopia. Reportedly, they feared for their security. But Col. Gaspard Baratuza says the soldiers’ fear was caused by false information on social media.

Col. Gaspard Baratuza

Col. Gaspard Baratuza

Those officers are said to have asked for a political asylum because they feared for their safety once they returned to Burundi. In response, Col. Gaspard Baratuza, the Burundian army spokesman, claims that the officers have been alarmed by rumours on social media giving lists of officers that are to be arrested. According to him, there are some people who want to divide the army in order to weaken the country. He says that soldiers who don’t accuse themselves of anything have nothing to fear in Burundi. They should not listen to unverified information. He noted that one of the four defectors was going to be awarded another scholarship to complete his doctorate studies as he had been excellent in his studies.

Desertion in the Burundi army has become common. The army spokesman spoke of five cases of defection from ISCAM, the Higher Institute of Military Officers, so far in this month. Deserters are reportedly of Tutsi ethnic group. But Baratuza denies those allegations saying that defectors are not exclusively Tutsi. Some desert while on duty in Burundi and others at the end of their peacekeeping mission abroad.

Cases of desertion within the national army have intensified following the present crisis that resulted from President Nkurunziza’s bid for a controversial third term. The crisis has seriously affected the army. In addition to desertions, many officers and high officers have been targets of both failed attempts and successful assassinations