One would have thought that change at the helm would signal a fresh start for relations with our neighbor Burundi following Pierre Nkurunziza’s sudden death due to an alleged heart attack.

Reasonable minds will disagree, not that cause of death makes a difference.

One of the killed thugs

This past week, a gang of armed thugs attacked Rwanda from Burundi and were repelled. Few made it back to whence they came.

It matters not whether the attackers were members of Burundi’s Infamous ragtag army. They violated our sovereignty and needless to say they must suffer the consequences.

Surely nobody in Bujumbura thinks there could be a fair fight from Burundi with RDF.

In his inaugural address, Evariste Ndayishimiye promised friendly relations with neighbors. Actions should back up one’s words, but what I am seeing from Bujumbura tells a different story, crossing our borders with malicious intent nothwistanding.

Evariste Ndayishimiye, Burundi’s elected President from the ruling party, the National Council for the Defense of Democracy – Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), (Photo by Tchandrou NITANGA / AFP)

I was hoping against all hopes that this was our chance to mend fences. Does not look like it. Bad habits die hard.

Burundi’s new Cabinet full of rabid hardliners says more than meets the eye. The band has changed, but the music remains stale, out of tune and sadly discordant.

Let us examine the new cabinet:

Prime Minister Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni is a former police chief and security minister. He is under US sanctions for his alleged role in political repression, accused of playing a major role in the 2015 political crisis when Nkurunziza’s third term sparked violence that left at least 1,200 dead and over 400,000 Burundians fled the country.

Then there is Gervais Ndirakobuca – formerly head of the feared national intelligence services, named Interior Minister. His nickname “NDAKUGARIKA” (I will hang you dead and stiff) seems to fit his criminal reputation. He is under sanctions by the EU and France.

This is not a class of good, decent men, is it?

Then there is Albert Shingiro, Burundi’s former Ambassador to the U.N. who has now been appointed as the new Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The man is a poster boy of genocide deniers, calling the 1994 genocide against Tutsi “presumed” He constantly uses his Twitter account to spur anti-Tutsi hate speech in Burundi.

In 2018, the U.N. High Commisioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet demanded the government of Burundi apologize for its inflammatory, personal attacks against members of the Independent Commission of Inquiry, impugning their credibility.

What did Albert Shingiro do? He verbally attacked and threatened to prosecute members of the Independent Commission of Inquiry at a meeting of the General Assembly’s Third Committee in New York.

Journalist Teddy Mazina talking about Burundi’s new government (Video courtesy Tele Rennaissance)

There are facts that cannot be denied, not that even the powers in Bujumbura have tried to dispute them: the continued support of INTERAHAMWE, financially and militarily, cannot be a recipe for good relations between Burundi and Rwanda.

The appointment of the new hardliner cabinet is a clear indication that the new administration plans on continuing with Nkurunziza’s belligerent and ethnically based shallow policies.

Rwanda has no interest in Burundi’s fractious politics, nor would we gain anything by being players on a chaotic political landscape.

Military equipment captured from Burundi thugs

One thing is for sure, and clear: We will not idly standby and watch our sovereignty be violated, Rwandans killed or maimed by mindless acts of lawlessness. We have been to hell and back, and we have no other choice but to stand our ground and fight our enemies, or perish as fools.

And that, we are not.