Burundi expresses optimism for normal relations with Rwanda

On 22 January 2021 at 11:09

Burundi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Amb. Albert Shingiro has expressed optimism for restoring the country’s relations with Rwanda following a long period of political tensions that ruined relations.

In 2015, a group of Burundian soldiers attempted to overthrow the then President Pierre Nkurunziza but the plan was nullified. Since then, Burundi has been accusing Rwanda of accommodating suspects behind the failed coup plot. Rwanda has however been insisting that the individuals are considered as refugees who must be protected against deportation by international laws.

Rwanda has said instead of deporting them, it is seeking to send them to a third country, a stance that did not go well with the Burundian government.

Rwanda also accuses Burundi of supporting rebel groups intending to destabilize national security.

The political mishap later halted cooperation and free movements between both countries.

Despite misunderstandings that have characterized both countries, both countries are promising to bring the situation back to normal for mutual benefits.

It has been emphasized by Burundi’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Amb. Albert Shingiro in a press conference held yesterday preceding the presentation of the ministry’s activities from October to December 2020.

He explained that Rwanda, Burundi relations worsened over the past six years when a delegation of top military leaders planned a coup plot against President Nkurunziza.

“As you know; Burundi, Rwanda relations deteriorated in 2015 because some Burundians who took part in the coup plot fled the country. The fact that Rwanda granted refuge to suspects that attempted a coup plot proved that existing friendship was useless,” he said.

Shingiro explained that both countries should not stick to the dark part but rather mend relations for interests of both countries’ people.

“We are cooperating with neighbors from the North. I have visited Rwanda for talks [with Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Biruta Vincent] on various issues including Burundians who played role in 2015 coup plot,” he noted.

Towards the end of 2020, the Government of Rwanda explained international laws protecting the rights of refugees as the reason pushing the country to withhold the decision of deporting suspects accused by Burundi of being behind a coup plot to overthrow late President Pierre Nkurunziza in 2015.

The revelation was made by Manasseh Nshuti, Rwanda’s State Minister for EAC Affairs speaking to The East African.

“The so-called coup plotters ran to Rwanda as refugees, and we are bound by international norms in terms of handling refugees. So Rwanda cannot hand them back. We would be breaching international law,” he said.

“So I think Burundi should not be using this excuse of refugees. They also have our refugees but we are not asking them back. No government should be able to do that unless the person is not a refugee but is a criminal,” added Nshuti.

Burundi has however claimed that such information was not officially communicated.

“We have not yet received such information officially. You have got these information from the media but our discussions are ongoing. We understand that mending relations is a long journey not something that can be fixed in few weeks. We have to work hard to promote common interests and revitalize relations,” explained Shingiro.

He expressed optimism that problems between both countries will be fixed and continue cooperation as usual.

“We are waiting for tangible evidences from neighbors especially concerning suspects of 2015 coup plot. We believe that Rwanda won’t abandon good relations with Burundi for interests of a small group of people. We should not keep quiet for deteriorating relations. We are hopeful that we shall find a solution one day,” said Shingiro.

In an interview with Jeune Afrique and The Africa Report journalists on 19th June 2020, President Paul Kagame revealed that Rwanda is committed to maintain good relations with neighbors that the election of Gen Evariste Ndayishimiye might be a good opportunity to achieve it.

As he delivered ‘State of the Nation Address’ towards the end of last year, President Kagame explained that Rwanda continues to partner with neighboring countries to address security issues in the region.

He pointed out foreign relations’ gaps for countries including Burundi noting that the situation will finally get a solution.

Burundi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Amb. Albert Shingiro.