The Rwandan government has asked the Burundian government to respect international obligations and protect Rwandans who are stranded in Burundi.
The call made on Friday, January 12, followed the Burundian government’s unilateral decision earlier on Thursday to close land borders with its northern neighbour over accusations that Rwanda was behind the attack on December 22 claimed by RED Tabara, a Burundian armed group based in eastern DR Congo.
Rwanda denies any links with the Burundian armed group.
On Friday, Burundian nationals and goods trucks were blocked from crossing into Burundi through the Nemba border post in Bugesera District even as the Rwandan side of the border was open.
Rwandan nationals in Burundi who wanted to return home were also not allowed to.
“The Burundian government and leaders are under the obligation to protect Rwandans in their country even though they do not want them there,” Deputy Government Spokesperson Alain Mukuralinda told national broadcaster RBA.
“They have made it clear that they don’t want them there. So, the next move is to support them to return home, safely, by finding safe routes for them until they arrive in Rwanda,” Mukuralinda said.
It is not clear how many Rwandans are stuck in Burundi. At least 44 Rwandans returned to Rwanda from Burundi on Friday through the Ruhwa border post in Rusizi District, according to RBA. Some of them said they were arrested and dispossessed of their money.
Burundians in Rwanda rest easy
Mukuralinda said Burundians who are in Rwanda should rest easy.
“For the Burundians here, they should sleep easy, go to their jobs. Anyone who wants to return to Burundi will not be blocked because the Rwandan border is not closed. We hope they will be allowed in their country.
“Those who want to stay here or come to Rwanda are welcome. No Burundian should be mistreated because of the decision by their government. Rwandans have no problem with the Burundians,” he said.
Burundi opened borders in 2020, when the two governments began normalisation of diplomatic relations, which took a hit in 2015 after an attempted coup against then Burundian president, Pierre Nkurunziza.
Incumbent President Evariste Ndayishimiye said members of RED Tabara were behind the 2015 coup attempt, which was followed by tens of thousands of Burundians fleeing to Rwanda.
Between August 2020 and October 2022, more than 30,000 refugees in Rwanda had returned to Burundi, according to the United Nations.
Senior and local government officials from both countries have met on multiple occasions as the relations and cross-border movement returned to normalcy.
The Rwandan government has urged Burundi to address any concerns through diplomatic channels.
“The position of the Rwandan government is to solve any issues through dialogue and diplomacy as we have made it clear,” Mukuralinda said.
Border closures directly affect the communities that depend on each other, he said.