The Chief of Defence Staff Gen Jean Bosco Kazura has told local leaders in the southern province that their actions are helping drive local residents to rebels as they feel neglected.
“What Nyungwe people are saying that no one can overrun us, can be, if we are just here acting unconcerned,” said Gen Kazura.
He spoke on Wednesday at a meeting of local officials from all the districts of the Southern Province in Huye district.
Since June 2018, a group calling itself national liberation forces or FLN has attacked parts of Nyaruguru district in the south, as well as Nyamasheke and Rusizi districts in west.
Several people have been killed, many others wounded and property looted and destroyed. The attackers have often retreated to the impenetrable Nyungwa Forest National Park which covers portions of these 3 districts, also neighboring Burundi.
President Kagame announced in September at the ruling RPF party congress that the region had been “cleaned” of all rebel activities, without naming any particular group.
In early October, the FLN, operating from South Kivu in DR Congo – transiting via Burundi, struck villages in Nyamasheke and Nyaruguru. A week later, the military and provincial officials toured the region – telling residents that the rebels had been intercepted and forced to flee before they reached inhabited villages.
Speaking this Wednesday, Gen Kazura rallied the local officials to “work with the people” to provide them with necessary services. Without which, he said, the enemy will win over the local population.
You all know what happened in Nyabimata, said Gen Kazura referring to the first area to have been attacked by FLN. “Isn’t it?,” he posed again, to which the whole audience responded in unison: “Yes!”.
“Then Bweyeye…what would be your response if asked where you were, which led to these attacks. Surely, with all of us here, where would the attackers pass?” he added.
“We cannot look on as our people remain hungry, homeless, without healthcare, no water, no electricity. Obviously, [the rebels] will overrun us,” said Gen Kazura.
“Let us all go back to our people, otherwise, infiltrators from outside will come to cover that loophole. It is unacceptable to let our people to be lured into what they shouldn’t do.”
He added: “Nobody here should be have a ‘That doesn’t concern me’ attitude. We cant attain anything if the people are always running….we have seen numbers here of people in poor conditions to the point of suffering from jiggers.”
“Let us admit that we have erred before, and leave here with a firm commitment from today to perform differently.”
Also at the meeting was Local Government Minister Prof Anastase Shyaka and Governor Emmanuel Gasana, himself the recent former police chief.