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Burundi Border with Rwanda closed

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Burundi said on Thursday that it had closed its border with Rwanda, nearly two weeks after President Evariste Ndayishimiye accused the neighbor of supporting rebels.

“We have closed our borders with Rwanda,” Burundi’s Minister of Interior, Community Development and Public Security Martin Niteretse was quoted by local media as saying on Thursday. The minister said his country was suspending diplomatic ties with Rwanda, closing their border and deporting Rwandan citizens. In response, Rwanda’s Office of the Government Spokesperson released a statement on Thursday evening, saying it regrets the unilateral border closure by Burundi. “The government of Rwanda has learned through media reports of the unilateral decision by the government of Burundi to again close its borders with Rwanda. This unfortunate decision will restrict the free movement of people and goods between the two countries, and violates the principles of regional cooperation and integration of the East African Community,” the statement said.

In late December, Ndayishimiye accused Rwanda of hosting RED-Tabara rebels who claimed responsibility for an attack on Dec. 22 in the border region between Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) that left 20 people dead and nine others injured. The accusations were made in a live program on a local radio station on Dec. 29, during which Ndayishimiye said, “Members of this rebel group (RED-Tabara) are hosted, fed and taken care of by Rwanda. They are offered money and working offices by that country.” However, Rwanda rejected the accusations. “The Rwandan government rejects comments by Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye alleging Rwandan support to Burundian armed rebel groups based in eastern DRC. Rwanda is not associated, in any way, with any Burundian armed group,” said a statement from the Office of the Government Spokesperson. “The government of Rwanda urges the government of Burundi to address its concerns through diplomatic channels where they can be amicably resolved,” the statement said. The RED-Tabara rebel group is based in eastern DRC and has been battling Burundi’s government since 2015.

Burundi’s border closure with Rwanda marks a recent escalation in tensions, but it is not entirely unprecedented. The two countries closed their borders in 2015 due to political turmoil and again during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in 2020, the two sides began restoring their diplomatic relations, resulting in the reopening of the borders in 2022.

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