The Government of Burundi has claimed that on Friday, December 22nd, the RED-Tabara rebel group launched an attack in Western Burundi on a Burundian military position in the town of Vugizo, nearby the nations’ border with the DRC. They claim that during the attack, civilians were caught in the crossfire, which resulted in 19 civilians, including 12 children, were killed. In addition to the civilians killed, the government added that one policeman was also killed in the attack. 9 people were also injured in the attack.
They stated that the “terrorist, vile, barbaric act” specifically targeted civilians, and resulted in the deaths of “12 children, including five less than five years old; three women including two who are pregnant; and five men including a policeman who came to help the civilians”.
They further added that the RED-Tabara militants retreated to the DRC following the attack, where they are said to have a base.
RED-Tabara, the group behind the attack, claimed responsibility for the attack, however denied the governments figures, instead specifically stating that no civilians were killed in the attack. According to the statement released by RED-Tabara on twitter 10 people, 9 military servicemen and 1 policeman, were killed in the attack, which they say was on the Vugizo border post.
Dans l'attaque du 22 décembre au poste Vugizo en zone Gatumba par #REDTabara, où 9 militaires & 1 policier ont été tués, le régime désemparé, tente de manipuler l'opinion comme à son habitude: il parle de victimes civiles, pas de membres des forces de sécurité #burundi-aises. 1/4 pic.twitter.com/iBO5EBuA61
— RED Tabara (@Red_Tabara) December 23, 2023
In their statment, they accuse the “distraught regime” of attempting to “manipulate opinion as usual”.
They stated that they devote themselves to the “absolute respect” of the population, and claimed that the government attacks civilians “each time” following attacks by RED-Tabara, and if there are civilian victims that they call for an independent investigation, seemingly blaming the government for any potential civilian casualties.
What is RED-Tabara..?
RED-Tabara is Burundi’s most prominent rebel group. Originally created in 2011 following the 2010 elections (which they had determined to be fraudulent), and gaining significant traction in 2015 during the widespread protest movement against at the time President Pierre Nkurunziza, after it was announced he would be running for a third term, when the nations constitution only allowed for two terms.
On May 5th, 2015, after 4 out of 7 judges on the nations’ Constitutional Court had fled the country following what they claimed were death threats from member of the government, the remaining 3 judges approved Nkurunziza’s candidacy, stating it does not go against the constitution.
On the 13th of May, 2015, a coup attempt took place, seeking to overthrow Nkurunziza. While it failed (despite apparent widespread public support), RED-Tabara’s ranks were bolstered by some of those radicalized against the government during the protests, which saw a harsh crackdown in which many protestors were killed or injured and internet/phone networks were cut nationwide, as well as some military members involved or sympathetic to the coup attempt.
RED-Tabara over the course of their history has launched a number of significant attacks in Burundi. While they do not carry enough force to potentially dislodge the government, they have made enough of an impact for the government to carry out several hundred arrests of people allegedly connected with RED-Tabara, as well as other armed groups operating against the government.
The group’s presence has significantly toned down since 2021, largely operating since within the DRC, however this attack marks the second on Burundi this December.
RED-Tabara claims to have never killed civilians in their attacks, however the government has made repeated claims of killings and abuses by RED-Tabara.