Bujumbura, January 30, 2024- The military situation on the Burundi-Rwanda border has escalated recently, according to reports from various sources including the Voice of America and local residents. The Burundian Minister of Defense, Alain Tribert Mutabazi, confirmed that Burundi has strengthened its military presence and war equipment along its borders, particularly those shared with Rwanda. This announcement was made in Bujumbura during a briefing on the achievements of his ministry in the second half of the previous year.
Residents of Kirundo province, especially those near the border, have expressed concerns over the visible increase in weapons and military personnel. According to their accounts, the presence of both soldiers and civilians, including former military members reintegrated into civilian life, has been notably increased. They report heightened vigilance, with strict controls on movements across the border.
The areas of heightened military presence, as informed by sources from the Voice of America, include the communes of Ntega, Bugabira, and Busoni in the provinces of Kayanza and Cibitoke. Concern is particularly high among families with Rwandan ties living near the border, with some even contemplating fleeing due to fear.
In addition to the increased militarization in Kirundo province, there is a significant military buildup in areas bordering the Bugesera district in Rwanda’s Eastern Province. Minister Mutabazi has stated that these measures are part of a defensive strategy against potential threats.
This tension follows Burundi’s closure of borders earlier this month, accusing Rwanda of harboring militants planning attacks in Burundi, a claim strongly denied by Rwanda. Rwandan President Paul Kagame, in a national security meeting, also emphasized his country’s readiness to defend its territory, warning against any breaches of Rwanda’s borders.
Burundi’s President Evariste Ndayishimiye has also expressed support for the Democratic Republic of Congo in addressing shared security concerns, indicating a regional dimension to the issue. Ismael Buchanan, a political analyst specializing in the Great Lakes region and a professor at the University of Rwanda, suggests that dialogue is the key to resolving these tensions.
This military buildup is not a new occurrence in the Burundi-Rwanda border region. Similar escalations were observed following the political turmoil in Burundi in 2015 when Burundi accused Rwanda of supporting attacks against Burundian citizens in the provinces of Kayanza and Cibitoke.