Burundi rebels set up force to topple president

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Rebels in Burundi have established a force in an attempt to oust President Pierre Nkurunziza amid escalating violence gripping the African country.

Edward Nshimirimana, a former army colonel who turned rebel, told AFP on Wednesday that the rebels have called themselves the Republican Forces of Burundi or “Forebu” taken from its French name, Les Forces Republicaines du Burundi.

Nshimirimana said the newly-formed group seeks “to protect the population” and uphold the 2006 Arusha peace deal that ended 13 years of civil war in Burundi.

“Our goal is to drive out Nkurunziza by force to restore the Arusha accord and democracy,” he added.

The remarks came less than a week after Burundi rejected the African Union (AU)’s plans to dispatch a 5,000-strong peacekeeping force to the African state in a bid to curb mounting tensions there.

Burundi witnessed a civil war between majority Hutus and minority Tutsis between 1993 and 2005, killing around 300,000 people. In September 2006, the Burundi government signed the Arusha peace deal with Hutus.

In late April, the country plunged into another turmoil when Nkurunziza announced his decision to run for a third consecutive five-year term, a move which was denounced as contrary to the country’s constitution and the 2006 peace accord.

The opposition boycotted the vote which came following widespread protests and a failed coup.

Nkurunziza was reelected after winning almost 69.41 percent of the 2.8 million votes cast in the July election.

December 11 saw the country’s worst violence in the recent past, with the Burundian government saying 87 people were killed then.

Latest UN figures show that at least 400 people have been killed, while 220,000 others have fled Burundi since April 26 due to the political crisis plaguing the African state.

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