Burundi has officially announced the indefinite closure of its border with Rwanda a move that comes in the wake of Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye’s accusations against Rwanda of sheltering and training the Red Tabara rebel group.
- This unfortunate decision will restrict the free movement of people and goods between the two countries.
- The development violates the principles of regional cooperation and integration of the East African Community.
- Relations between certain nations within the bloc have been strained for years due to domestic disputes.
The closure was confirmed by Burundi’s Interior Minister, Martin Niteretse who revealed that travelers in the northern region of Burundi were being barred from entering or leaving the country. Niteretse emphasized the closure, stating, “Today we closed the borders. And someone who will go there will not pass.”
The shared northern border between Burundi and Rwanda spans 315 kilometers and this recent development adds strain to the already delicate relations between the two nations.
The Red Tabara rebel group had claimed responsibility for an attack near Burundi’s western border with the Democratic Republic of Congo in December.
Discrepancies in casualty figures emerged with Burundi reporting 20 deaths while Red Tabara insisted on nine soldiers and one police officer being killed.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame vehemently denied accusations of harboring and training the rebel group. In response, Burundi labeled Kagame a “bad neighbor.”
Rwanda learned about Burundi’s border closure through media reports, leading to a government spokesperson expressing regret and highlighting the violation of regional cooperation principles within the East African Community.
This is not the first time the border has been closed; in 2015, political tensions and later COVID-19 concerns led to a temporary closure. After six years, the borders were reopened, allowing land crossings while RwandAir continued commercial flights to Burundi without disruption.
The strained relations between Rwanda and Burundi reflect a broader trend of delicate ties among nations within the East African Community, including Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Somalia.