President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi on Tuesday discharged 23 army officers for not returning back from abroad, the Burundian army spokesman said.
“On May 26, the Burundian president signed a decree whereby he revoked 23 officers of the army who had gone to do their master’s or doctorate studies in France, Belgium or Canada.
“They went there and did not come back,’’ spokesperson Gaspard Baratuza said.
According to him, those army officers had went to pursue their graduate studies between 2005 and 2008 and had to come back by 2013.
“Some of those officers requested an extension of two years and their request was accepted.
“But in 2015, all of them should have come back to Burundi. Unfortunately some of them preferred to breach military rules,’’ Baratuza said.
Those army officers include two lieutenant-colonels, 16 majors and five captains.
“This is a loss for the Burundian army and also a loss for the country because those officers had gone to be trained in various specializations that we do not have here,’’ he said.
Baratuza added that their training cost money of Burundi.
In April, the Burundian defense and war veterans’ ministry denied “mass desertions” of its soldiers, saying only about 30 soldiers had deserted since 2015 due to political manipulations.
Some media reported between 600 and 2,000 soldiers had deserted the Burundian army since 2015.
Burundi has plunged into a crisis since April 2015 when Nkurunziza decided to run his third term.
No fewer than 500 people in Burundi have been killed and over 400,000 people fled to neighbouring countries since the outbreak of the crisis.