Burundi’s Challenges and Critical Stance on Relations with Rwanda

On Friday, June 28, 2024, at the Makamba Stadium, members of the Burundi government, led by Prime Minister Gervais Ndirakobuca, addressed questions from journalists and citizens nationwide. The discussions focused on several pressing issues, including the foreign exchange shortage, fuel scarcity, closed borders, the deaths of Burundians working abroad, delayed payments to soldiers deployed abroad, and more.

Prime Minister Gervais Ndirakobuca stated that the solution to the foreign exchange crisis in Burundi lies in increasing the country’s export volume. He emphasized the need to boost the production of goods that Burundians export to other countries. Finance Minister Audace Niyonzima added that the export of minerals would significantly increase foreign exchange reserves.

Regarding the fuel shortage, Interior Minister Martin Niteretse explained that some transport operators are hoarding fuel and then selling it at inflated prices. He noted that these individuals siphon fuel from vehicles to resell it at higher prices.

On the issue of allowing motorcycles and Bajaj (three-wheeler taxis) to operate within the city center to ease transportation problems, the Interior Minister stated that this is a matter of safety and security. Prime Minister Ndirakobuca added that experts must determine whether the original reasons for restricting motorcycles and Bajaj in the city center are still valid or if they could now operate without compromising security.

Defense Minister Tribert Mutabazi, when asked about the number of Burundian soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, declined to provide specific figures, citing military confidentiality. However, he assured that the soldiers are well-treated according to the agreements between Burundi and Congo and that they are not owed any payments.

Foreign Affairs Minister Albert Shingiro addressed the issue of the closed border with Rwanda. He recalled discussions in which Rwanda was supposed to hand over individuals accused of attempting to overthrow the Burundian government, which did not materialize. He also mentioned attacks by the Red Tabara group, which Burundi claims is supported by Rwanda. These issues have led to a lack of trust between the two countries, resulting in the closure of the land border, although the air border remains open.

Minister Shingiro also responded to concerns about Burundians being killed in South Africa. He explained that those being killed are undocumented immigrants, making it difficult to protect them. He urged Burundians whose residence permits have expired to contact Burundian representatives in those countries to address their issues.