By: Robert Patrick Fati Gakwerere
Diplomatic tensions between Burundi and Rwanda continue to increase at the start of 2024. On the 2nd February 2024 while meeting diplomatic corps and consular accredited to Burundi, the president of Burundi Evariste Ndayishimiye once again criticized Rwanda’s ruthless dictator Paul Kagame and his regime.
Mr. Ndayishimiye accused Kigali of supporting the “Red Tabara” rebel movement which plunged Burundians into mourning last December, 2023, near Christmas Day. According to him, Rwanda recruits terrorists in the Mahama refugee camp, trains them, maintains them and arms them.
“Burundi has not been spared by terrorism either. We went through the end of the year in mourning for our children, our mothers, our brothers and sisters who were victims of a terrorist attack for which the planning was prepared in the neighboring country, Rwanda. We were all stunned by the fact that this neighboring country, Rwanda, recruits terrorists in the Mahama refugee camp, trains them, maintains them and arms them, obstructing international laws and standards on the protection of refugees”, said Évariste Ndayishimiye in his speech broadcasted on Burundi’s Presidential website.
The Burundian Head of State added, “It is sickening to know that the command of this group which is located in Kigali collaborates closely with the command of the Rwandan army in the planning of terrorist attacks.”
For President Evariste Ndayishimiye, stabilization of peace remains a concern in the region. He recalled that in 2023, Burundi, which was at the head of the East African Community, focused its efforts as well as the entire region on the restoration of peace and security in the Eastern of the DR Congo.
“We are particularly dismayed by the fact that the region is becoming a stronghold of armed and terrorist groups who are sowing desolation; which cannot in any way leave us idly, hence our support for the DR Congo to deal with all these terrorist groups operating in Eastern DR Congo. We intervened as part of the regional force whose mandate ended at the end of the year, 2023. Today, some EAC countries intervened within the framework of common bilateral defence cooperation, I can cite Burundi and Uganda; and others collectively under the SADC member countries,” said President Evariste Ndayishimiye.
After accusing Rwanda of supporting a RED-Tabara which carried out terrorist attacks on Burundi soil, the government of Burundi announced announced on 11th January 2024, the closure of their borders with Rwanda. According to Burundi, the RED-Tabara group (Resistance for the Rule of Law in Burundi) launched an attack on December 22, 2023 near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo killing 20 people, including women and children. On December 30, Burundian President Évariste Ndayishimiye accused Rwanda of supporting the rebels, accusations denied by Kigali.
Diplomatic relations between Burundi and Rwanda have often been tumultuous. A slight improvement was noted after Évariste Ndayishimiye came to power in 2020, but for some time, ties have been strained again. Burundi had already closed its border with its Rwandan neighbor in 2015, with the two countries accusing each other of supporting rebel movements. The border was reopened in 2022.
RED-Tabara, the main armed group fighting the regime led by Évariste Ndayishimiye, has a base in South Kivu province, eastern DRC, and is today the most active of Burundi’s rebel groups, with a force estimated to be in thousands fighters.