Exploring Burundian President Ndayishimye’s response to DRC crisis amid regional turmoil

On 14 December 2023 at 01:24

Evariste Ndayishimiye, also known as ’General Neva,’ assumed Presidency in Burundi on June 18, 2020, following the passing of his predecessor Pierre Nkurunziza. Nkurunziza’s imminent power transition had left the nation in mourning.

Ndayishimiye, during his tenure, endeavored to bring about significant changes in Burundi, a country that had faced isolation since 2015. This marked the beginning of his international engagements, spanning Tanzania, Uganda, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United States, China, and other nations.

On July 22, 2022, Ndayishimiye succeeded Uhuru Kenyatta as the Chairperson of the East African Community, assuming responsibility for the initiatives to restore peace in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He actively participated in various meetings alongside fellow leaders.

During the third round of Nairobi-Congo negotiations on November 28, 2022, Ndayishimiye, in his capacity as the EAC representative, provided counsel to assist in achieving the desired security outcomes. Emphasizing the Congolese people’s agency, he asserted that their solutions lay within, cautioning against reliance on external aid.

In a pivotal shift in August 2023, Ndayishimiye collaborated with President Félix Tshisekedi in Kinshasa, agreeing to support the DRC’s efforts against the M23 armed group. This collaboration led to the deployment of soldiers from Burundi to North Kivu Province.

Reports surfaced on social media, particularly among Burundian refugees, suggesting the involvement of Burundian soldiers in the conflict. The Burundian army spokesperson, Col. Floribert Biyereke, refuted these claims, asserting that the soldiers in Masisi were part of the EAC mission.

M23 countered with accusations that Burundian soldiers were aiding their adversaries. Despite expressing a desire for peace in regional talks, M23 leaders were astonished when President Ndayishimiye seemingly shifted allegiance, prompting a meeting between M23 President Bertrand Bisimwa and the Burundian Head of State in Bujumbura.

Bisimwa, perplexed by the apparent change, conveyed his astonishment at the Burundian Army’s transformation into perceived adversaries. He questioned the inconsistency between Ndayishimiye’s peacemaker image and Burundi’s involvement against M23.

The reported financial aspects of the agreement between Ndayishimiye and Tshisekedi raised concerns. Allegedly, the DRC paid substantial sums to Burundi, with each Burundian soldier in the DRC expected to receive $5000 per month, along with a $200 incentive for those actively engaged in warfare.

Discrepancies in payment led to dissent among Burundian soldiers, resulting in some refusing to participate in the war against M23.

On November 22, 2023, reports indicated varying payment amounts, ranging from $50 for junior soldiers to $100 for senior officers, further adding to the discontent. Some soldiers, unsure of the cause they were fighting for, refused to engage in combat, leading to their return to Bujumbura for investigation.

Evariste Ndayishimiye (left) with his counterpart Tshisekedi during a working visit to DRC this year.