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Burundi Army

Burundi suffered from a 10-year civil war that formally ended with the ceasefire agreement between the government and the last active armed group (Forces Nationales de Libération, FNL) in 2006. Burundi's civil war pitted the army, then dominated by the ethnic Tutsi minority, against rebel groups mostly made up of majority Hutus, one of them led by Nkurunziza. The army now includes both ethnic groups.

The army consists of 50% Hutu and 50% Tutsi. The constitution provides for equal numbers of Hutu and Tutsi in the military, police, and the SNR to prevent either of these ethnic groups having disproportionate power that might be used against the other group. The formal integration (with international oversight and assistance) of Hutu into the previously Tutsi-dominated army began in 2004 and largely was complete, but the integration of police remained incomplete by 2014.

The United Nations outlines the goal of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) as a process of removing weapons from the hands of combatants, taking the combatants out of military structures and helping them to integrate socially and economically into society, thereby seeking to support ex-combatants so that they can become active participants in the peace process.

The extent to which disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) programs initiated by state or multilateral agencies can realise the reintegration of ex-combatants remains debated. While some consider that DDR should have the ambition to result in long-term reintegration, others argue that DDR should focus on short-term goals.

The experiences with the reintegration of ex-combatants in Burundi showed the interconnectedness of economic and social reintegration processes, and demonstrates that the reintegration of ex-combatants cannot be seen in isolation from the wider recovery and development context in which DDR is taking place. Moreover, reconciliation and social reintegration are deeply interconnected, to the extent that social reintegration may fail if reconciliation is not taken into account.

When in 2007 the US sought African troops to support AMISOM, the African Union's Mission in Somalia, Burundi was one of only two states to pledge its support and make good on that promise. In 2007 the AU proposed that Burundi's forces serve as force protection units for military installations, airports, and seaports to allow the Ugandan military already serving in that capacity to engage in more complex missions. This type of mission may not require an extensive buildup of equipment. The more equipment involved, the more training which would be required. This training requirement could delay deployment. The AU's goal was to deploy a ready-equipped, self-sustaining force.

The AU team recognized that the Burundian military lacked the equipment to carry out its mission in Somalia. However, they noted that force protection units had fewer equipment needs than units engaging in combat or conducting patrols. They listed body armor (self-protection), water capabilities (self-sustainment), basic communication, and transportation as the fundamental needs for force protection. The AU team acknowledged that this deployment will be costly and the Burundians were unable to fund its mission.

Burundi's Minister of Defense, Lieutenant General Germain Niyoyonkana, insisted that Burundi could not send a force smaller than a battalion to Somalia. A battalion consists of 800-1000 soldiers. He maintained that his forces must have the capability to defend themselves if attacked, rather than rely solely on support from other peacekeeping forces. While his stated concern is to ensure maximum security for his troops, another reason was Burundi's desire to be perceived as on equal footing with other Troop Contributing Countries.

The Burundian Army fought a predictive battle in its peace keeping operations in Somalia. The Burundians had been engaged in Somalia since 2008, sending multiple battalions to assist with security and counter the growth and capability of al Shabab. This requires a solid understanding of how the local population views the Somali Government and al Shabab as well as what drives individuals to join or support either side. It is no longer enough to simply understand the enemy; it is critical to understand the local population and its perspectives on the fight. This local knowledge could prove to be the critical factor in winning or losing.

Burundian soldiers performed well when suicide bombers attacked their base in February 2009. Despite rather desultory calls from some political party leaders to bring Burundi's troops home, the President, fully backed by the military commanders, refused to do so. The Burundians were serious about developing their peacekeeping skills and becoming long-term participants in peacekeeping missions, particularly UN missions.

Participation in PKOs burnished Burundi's international credentials, provided vital expertise to Burundi's military forces, and, critically, provides a safety valve by furnishing legitimate work for thousands of demobilized rebels who populated Burundi's bloated military. Nkurunziza knew that as long as there was AMISOM for Burundian soldiers, there would be silence in the Army. Rampant corruption in Somalia within the Burundian contingent also became the cancer of the mission.

The virus of politicization reached the Army. The FDD former military identified more with the ruling party than the Army. The Burundian army was divided. It is on one side former FAB and on the other hand the FDD. Although on paper former FDD officers and former FAB work together, they often receive orders from different sources, especially for the former FDD. Animosity developed between the two groups because the former FDD are Hutu, and will kill Tutsi having family ties with the former FAB Tutsi military.

The Burundian army was divided. Members who had mastered the art of war were mostly former FAB because they had a lot of training. Since the integration, there was no actual military training as before. The military who controlled the heavy weapons are the former FAB. If Burundi was attacked, the power will struggle to put the pieces together to complete the war. Given the current situation, some soldiers could go to the enemy. A military can fight when it is morally consistent with the one he defends or cause defended. A regime that intimidates those who want to defend it will struggle to defend its stability. The elite battalions of the Burundian Army were Gitega commando battalion, the 1st Battalion Para and 11 th armored battalion. These battalions are dominated by former FAB.

The Government of Burundi failed to notify the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1533 (2004) concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo about the deployment of the Burundian army (Force de défense nationale, FDN) in South Kivu. Although this deployment ended in October 2014, there were instances of sexual violence committed by the Burundian army and/or the Imbonerakure youth group during the deployment.

The controversy about a Burundian presence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo emerged when, in April and May 2014, it was reported that a Burundian youth group affiliated with the Burundian ruling party (the Conseil national pour la défense de la démocratie-Forces pour la défense de la démocratie), called Imbonerakure (meaning “those who see far”), was training in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Imbonerakure trained in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2014. During that time, they wore Burundian army uniforms, making it difficult to distinguish them from Burundian soldiers.

Critics of President Pierre Nkurunziza said a third term would be unconstitutional. Nkurunziza and his supporters argue it’s permitted because he was elected by parliament, not voters, for his first term in 2005. Burundi's constitutional court sided with the president. President Nkurunziza faced revolt from within his own party over his presumed candidacy.

Burundi was beset by violence in the weeks since Nkurunziza indicated he may seek a third term. More than a dozen people died and tens of thousands left the country.

Former intelligence chief General Godefroid Niyombare used privately owned radio stations to announce the president's dismissal 14 May 2015. The general had been fired from his position as Burundi's intelligence chief in February. The man behind Burundi’s apparent May 13 coup, Major-General Godefroid Niyombare, is well known and respected. Niyombare wrote a memo during his tenure as chief of the Burundian national intelligence office that argued “for over 10 to 15 pages” that Nkurunziza should not seek a third term. Niyombare was sacked after the memo leaked.

Gunfire rang out across Burundi's capital as rival army factions battled for control of the city a day after a top general launched a coup attempt while the president was out of the country. Burundi’s government arrested at least 17 people on 16 May 2015 in connection with a failed coup attempt to overthrow the country's president a day earlier. The arrests included at least three generals and two police commissioners.

The coup attempt was wrongly attributed to former FAB and especially the Tutsi who were predominantly in the protests against the third term. Long before, groups of former FDD some officers had been formed within the body of the army for the distribution of future missions.

After the coup attempt, Nkurunziza transferred military units deemed sympathetic to the protest or the putschists to other places. The 1 para battalion went to Mujejuru, near Jenda and 11 th armored battalion went to Muzinda. He put in charge of the camps men deemed close to his power.

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