A diplomatic row between Burundi and Rwanda took on a new front Thursday as Burundi closed its borders with its neighbor.“We have stopped ties with him until he changes” Burundi’s Interior Minister Martin Niteretse said in a statement.
The latest follows accusations from Burundi to Rwanda of funding rebel attacks. Burundian President Évariste Ndayishimiye made the accusation in December after 20 people were killed near Burundi’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Rwandan President Paul Kagame denies the charge. His government has responded to the border closure saying that it “regrets the unilateral closure of the border by Burundi”.
Red Tabara admitted to carrying out the December attack, but said they killed nine soldiers and one police officer. The Burundian rebel group operates from DR Congo’s South Kivu province bordering Burundi.
It is not the first time that Burundi was shutting its borders with Rwanda.
In 2015 its authorities closed borders to Rwanda due to political tensions and then because of Covid-19. It took seven years for them to be reopened even though land crossings were never interrupted.
For Rwanda, the latest is yet another diplomatic tension after that of the DR Congo. In July 2023, the DR Congo’s army said Rwandan forces crossed its border and attacked its frontier security forces, potentially escalating tensions between the central African neighbours.
“The ensuing clashes enabled the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to repel the Rwandan terrorists who perpetrated this intolerable provocation,” Congo’s army said in a statement.
In December, Bintou Keita, a UN special representative to DR Congo warned the Security Council that tensions between “Congo and Rwanda have escalated, heightening the risk of a military confrontation that could draw in Burundi”.