Burundi, January 11, 2024: In a meeting with the leaders of the Ministry of Interior, Security, and Community Development, Martin Niteretse announced that Burundi has closed all borders with Rwanda. The meeting, held in the northern province of Kayanza, witnessed the minister stating, “Today, we have closed the borders and no one shall pass. This decision is final.”
“Let everyone be clear that traveling through Nemba-Gasenyi or Kanyaru to Rwanda is strictly forbidden. ‘Never’ shall it happen! We do not need their people here, and those who were staying in our country have been expelled.”
Minister Martin Niteretse also declared the suspension of relations with Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, accusing him of being a ‘bad neighbor’. He said, “Due to our unfortunate experience with a bad neighbor, Paul Kagame, the President of Rwanda, we have ceased all relations with him until he reforms his ways.
“He harbors, I must say, dubious plans. He shelters criminals who harm Burundi, most of whom pass through his territory.”
Turbulent Relations Between Burundi and Rwanda
Since the attempted coup in Burundi in 2015, the country had closed all borders with Rwanda, reopening them only in October 2022, after seven years. At that time, Burundi had accused Rwanda of supporting those who attempted to forcibly overthrow the late President Pierre Nkurunziza.
Recently, there had been hopes of improving relations following various visits by officials from both countries. In February 2023, President Paul Kagame attended an East African Community (EAC) summit on the Democratic Republic of Congo issue. The first ladies of both countries [Ndayishimiye and Kagame] also exchanged visits and gifts.
Rwanda has been accused of sheltering the militants of RED-TABARA.
In a recent address to the nation, Burundi’s President Evariste Ndayishimiye stated, “Everyone knows that alongside the devastating events of 2015, supported by the same country, the group (RED-Tabara) fled to Rwanda, receiving training in terrorism and violence there.
“We had tried everything to resolve the tension between Rwanda and Burundi, even opening our borders for the benefit of our citizens. However, Rwanda responded to these efforts with disdain.
“We are now determined to take all necessary measures to protect the children of Burundi from these terrorists. I call upon all Burundians to be vigilant, as we are truly dealing with a terrorist threat from our neighboring Rwanda.”
President Ndayishimiye added, “We again urge the leaders of Rwanda to reflect and act humanely, realizing that when a neighbor’s house is on fire, yours is in danger too. The hostility between the Rwandan and Burundian people will not benefit either nation under this regime.
“We will also appeal to the international community and peace-loving individuals to persuade this merciless government to surrender the leaders of these militants to Burundi for justice. If they resist, they should know they are only fueling a conflict that affects innocent citizens of both countries.”
On social media, various individuals speculate that Ndayishimiye might be indicating his government’s readiness to again close borders with Rwanda, similar to the situation in 2022.
The attack in Gatumba zone, Mutimbuzi commune on December 22, 2023 which claimed 20 lives, was attributed to the RED-TABARA group.
It remains unclear if the closed borders are limited to land crossings only.