Burundi's army denies mass desertions of soldiers

Huang Panyue

BUJUMBURA, April 13 (Xinhua) -- The Burundian defense and war veterans ministry Thursday denied mass desertions of its soldiers, saying only about 30 soldiers deserted since 2015 due to political manipulations.

"There are rumors saying over 600 soldiers have deserted from the Burundian army. These rumors don't indicate when the desertions took place. Maybe this figure comprises of soldiers who retired or who left the army since its creation," Burundian Army Spokesman Gaspard Baratuza said.

According to him, there is a "small number of soldiers" who were manipulated by "ill-intended politicians" and deserted the army in 2015.

"They are about 30 soldiers. It's a meaningless figure that can not scare the army," Baratuza said.

Some media outlets earlier this week reported that between 600 and 2,000 soldiers had deserted the Burundian army since 2015.

Burundi has plunged into a crisis since April 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to run his controversial third term in violation of the national constitution and the 2000 Arusha Agreement that ended a decade-long civil war.

More than 500 people in Burundi have been killed and over 300,000 people fled to neighboring countries since the outbreak of the crisis.

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