Rwanda slams Burundi's border closure as tensions rise over rebel attacks

Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye (left) and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame. [ AFP]

Rwanda has condemned Burundi’s decision to close its borders with its northern neighbor, calling it a violation of regional integration and cooperation.

The move comes amid rising tensions between the two countries over Bujumbura’s accusations that Kigali is supporting a rebel group that has launched deadly attacks on its territory.

In a statement on X Thursday, January 11, Rwanda’s government said it learned of Burundi’s unilateral action through media reports.

“This unfortunate decision will restrict the free movement of people and goods between countries, and violates the principles of regional cooperation and integration of the East African Community,” the statement said.

Burundi’s border closure follows a series of accusations by President, Evariste Ndayishimiye, who claimed that Rwanda is funding and training rebels of the RED-Tabara group, which is based in eastern Congo.

The group has claimed responsibility for an attack on the village of Gatumba, near the Burundi-Congo border, that killed at least 20 people in December 2023.

Ndayishimiye said Burundi has been unsuccessfully negotiating with Rwanda for two years, seeking the extradition of the rebels.

Rwanda has denied any involvement in the attack and said it cannot extradite people who are under the protection of the U.N. refugee agency.

The border closure marks a setback in the relations between the two countries, which had improved with the ascension to power of Ndayishimiye in June 2020.

The two countries had reopened their borders after years of diplomatic disputes and mutual accusations of meddling in each other’s affairs.

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