In response to the Burundian authorities’ decision to close their borders on January 11, 2024, the Rwandan government has advised its citizens against traveling to Burundi. While issuing this caution, Kigali reassures Burundians residing in Rwanda and urges the Burundian authorities to ensure the safety of any Rwandans who might find themselves in Burundi (SOS Médias Burundi).
Initially, the Rwandan government responded to the incident by stating that it had learned “through media channels about Burundi’s unilateral decision to once again close all its borders” with its northern neighbor.
Rwanda expresses regret over this development, noting that it “restricts the free movement of people and goods between the two countries and violates the treaty of the East African Community,” to which both nations belong.
On Friday afternoon, Kigali issued a warning to its citizens. “Rwandans here must understand this directly and quickly. If a country declares it doesn’t want us, there’s no reason to go there! Take necessary precautions and measures,” announced Alain Mukularinda, Deputy Spokesperson for the Rwandan government, during a press conference.
This appears to be a tit-for-tat response following Burundi’s expulsion of dozens of Rwandans on Thursday.
“We don’t need Rwandans here, and even those who were on our territory, we have expelled them,” declared Martin Niteretse, the Burundian Minister of Internal Affairs, when announcing the border closure between the small East African nation and its northern neighbor.
“I had asked the governors to report on foreigners living in Burundi. They did so. We used this information and everything went smoothly,” he continued.
Although specific figures were not provided, sources confirmed to Igihe.com, a Rwandan online media outlet, that “around thirty Rwandan nationals were handed over to the Rwandan authorities this Thursday at the common border of Ruhwa.”
Rwanda urges Burundian authorities to ensure the safety of any Rwandans on Burundian soil. “Whether they make lists or not, whether they want to or not… none of this absolves Burundi of its responsibility to protect these people, whether they are Rwandan or other foreigners. No one should worry,” Alain Mukularinda stated.
Conversely, Kigali reassures Burundians living in Rwanda. “As for Burundians here in Rwanda… continue with your daily activities without any concern. You will not be affected by the Burundian authorities’ decision to close the borders with Rwanda,” emphasized Mukularinda.
Nevertheless, Rwanda expresses surprise that Burundi did not inform its neighbor of this decision through regular diplomatic channels but remains open to any dialogue “for the benefit of the people of both countries who are greatly suffering.”