, Nairobi, Kenya, Dec 24 – Burundi said Thursday it would swiftly crush rebels after they announced they had joined forces to oust President Pierre Nkurunziza following months of bloodshed in the troubled central African country.
“It won’t last long,” presidential press chief Willy Nyamitwe told AFP of the rebels, who have called themselves the Republican Forces of Burundi, or “Forebu” from its name in French.
“This is not the first rebel movement that was born in Burundi, there have been others before it.. which have all been stifled — and Forebu has no future like its predecessors.”
The rebels have formed a force “to protect the population” and uphold the Arusha Agreement that paved the way to the end of the 1993-2006 civil war but which they say Nkurunziza has violated by his controversial third term in power.
There are widespread fears the Burundi is rapidly sliding towards civil war.
Hundreds of people have been killed in months of street protests in Burundi, which have devolved into frequent armed attacks with gunfire disrupting the nights and dead bodies appearing on city streets almost every day.
The violence — which included a abortive coup, regular ambushes on security forces, street battles and even failed mortar bombings on the presidential palace — already echoes attacks carried out during the civil war.
But the government said it was confident the rebels would soon be stopped – pointing their thwarting of attacks this month on military bases, among the most intense for months.
“This movement, existed long before the official announcement of its existence, is responsible for many abortive attacks including those on military camps on December 11 and has already lost much in men and material,” Nyamitwe said.
“It is a movement that has no purpose and whose claims are illegitimate,” he added.
The formation of the insurgents comes amid mounting regional pressure on the government to accept African Union peacekeepers that Bujumbura calls an “invasion force”.
Pushing for Burundi’s acceptance of the AU force will be a key part of talks in Uganda on December 28.