Dr. Biruta said this on Wednesday while addressing the media in Kigali on the current affairs on local, regional, and global issues.
Asked about the recent comments made by the Burundi’s President Maj. Gen Evariste Ndayishimiye that Rwanda is holding hostage Burundian refugees, Biruta said that the claims are false because Rwanda has expressed the desire to facilitate the repatriation process.
“The numbers we have indicate that Rwanda hosts 71,973 Burundian refugees at the moment, the third-highest number of Burundian refugees hosted by any country. One can only claim that the ones in Rwanda have been held hostage after the refugees in other countries have returned home, which is not true,”
“Before the COVID-19, which led to the closure of borders, it should be noted that at least 200 Burundian refugees would return home. Nobody stopped them. The fact that they are not going home now is because of the border closures but Rwanda has no interest in keeping the refugees,” Minister Biruta said.
Dr Biruta added that Rwanda has an international obligation to welcome refugees escaping trouble but has no interest in keeping them. He said that whatever was done was in line with the protocol to protect refugees in peril.
“As we speak, tomorrow there is a technical meeting involving all parties, to discuss the modalities of how these refugees can be facilitated to return home even at this time of COVID-19,” he added, pointing out that the process is facilitated by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
“We have about 136 Burundian citizens who had come to Rwanda for different reasons at the time the borders were closed, including those who had come to seek treatment. They requested to return home and they were denied the right to do so. They have been stranded here. The Burundian Embassy in Rwanda approached us and requested us to facilitate their repatriation and we did our part but Burundi refused to welcome them back. Some were known and had been cleared to travel hear for treatment but after that they could not be allowed to return home,” Dr Biruta said.
Dr Biruta said that it is surprising that Bujumbura would accuse Kigali of holding Burundian refugees’ hostage yet they cannot allow back their own citizens.
Dr Biruta also spoke about the recent comments by the Burundian leader that his government is not interested in pursuing friendly ties with a ‘cunning and dishonest neighbour’, pointing out that Rwanda would not force Burundi to work on bettering relations.
“What I can say is that for us we remain ready to work with our neighbours to improve relations. For two countries to co-exist well there must be the will on both sides. What we learned is that Burundi is not interested in improving relations,” Dr Biruta said.
He said that Rwanda would not go into responding to some of the allegations or attacks apart from clearing the air on outstanding issues without exchanging words with the Burundian leadership.