21 Feb

The situation in the Great Lakes region of Africa is one of the major Geopolitical Risks that will continue into 2024. We saw evidence of that on December 23, 2023, with another attack taking place. 

On that day, the Burundian Militant Group Red Tabara launched an attack upon the village of Vugizo which is near the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The event resulted in the deaths of 20 people; the majority of the victims were children.

Before explaining this incident one of the questions that should be delved into is who are Red Tabara and what is their history.  It is time to begin with the basics. The first item is the name. What does it mean? Would it be a surprise to learn that it is an acronym? The RED in Red Tabara is shortened for Resistance pour un Etat de Droit au Burundi or in English Resistance for the Rule of Law in Burundi. The group first appeared in 2011 and has been based in South Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since then. They are considered to be the most active of the Burundi Rebel groups with an estimated number of between 500 and 800 fighters currently active. 

The group has been known to launch sporadic attacks against Burundi since it was founded. Before the December 2023 attack, the last documented attack that was attributed to the group took place in early September 2023 when gunmen fired on civilians at the airport serving the capital of Bujumbura. These attacks are the latest in a pattern that would lead some analysts to consider the situation to be a low-level insurgency.

How has the government in Bujumbura responded to the activities of the group? One action that was taken was the deployment of troops into the Democratic Republic of the Congo back in 2022 to deal with the various militant groups that are operating in the eastern part of the country. The troops were withdrawn at the end of 2023 when the DRC Government refused to extend the mandate that allowed them to be present  Reports emerged shortly after the Vugizo attack that at least 1,000 Burundian Troops that were engaged against the Congolese Militia M23 were wearing Congolese Army uniforms. It appears that the mission has impacted some of the reactions of the Burundian Government. 

Using a tactic similar to what the DRC is using, the Burundian Government is now accusing Rwanda of supporting Red Taraba. During a national broadcast after the attack, Burundian President Evariste Ndaysishimiye was quoted as saying Red Tabara “ are fed, sheltered, hosted and maintained in the terms of logistics and financial means by Rwanda.”  The President would also be quoted further  as saying “ I think the future is bleak for this country that is helping them.” These accusations were denied by the Rwandan Government. In a statement, the Rwandan Government said “ Rwanda is not associated, in any way, with any Burundian Armed Group.” 

The situation plays into the fears of the United Nations at this time. The organization is concerned that war could erupt between the DRC and Rwanda. There is concern that if that conflict breaks out Burundi would then be brought into the conflict. That would mean that the wounds that have slowly been healing since 1994 would then again be ripped open as the region would then slide back into conflict. 

This situation should not be treated as a new conflict. On the contrary, this situation should be considered to be an issue from decades ago that has been unresolved and allowed to fester. The turbulent elections that were recently run in the DR Congo with the victory of the Incumbent President Felix Tshishsekedi who has been hostile towards Rwanda could accelerate the timeline towards conflict. 

What a way to begin 2024.  

Scott Morgan

Scott Morgan has been the President of Red Eagle Enterprises since its inception in November 2012. He uses his experience from serving in the U.S. Military to address various projects. Currently based in Washington DC, his firm specializes in US Policy towards Africa focusing on security and religious liberty concerns south of the Sahara. His firm provides content to Juicy Ecumenism which is a project of the Institute for Religion and Democracy, is a co-owner of the Maghreb and Orient Courier and provides content to Dissecting Society and to Militant Wire. His Blog Confused Eagle can be found at confusedeagledc.substack.com
He tweets as (@confusedeagledc)