Rwanda discloses Burundi’s reluctance to sign agreement on exchange of criminals

By Esther Muhozi
On 11 March 2024 at 10:59

The Deputy Government Spokesperson, Alain Mukuralinda, has announced that Burundi rejected Rwanda’s request for a bilateral extradition agreement for individuals suspected of committing cross-border crimes.

For several days, Burundi has been claiming that Rwanda refuses to transfer individuals suspected of being involved in the attempt to overthrow its government in May 2015.

Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye even went so far as to assert that these individuals constitute the "core" of the armed group RED Tabara, responsible for recent attacks in the provinces of Bujumbura and Bubanza, an allegation denied by Kigali.

Rwanda justifies its refusal to extradite these Burundians by their status as refugees, protected by international law.

In an interview with Primo Media Rwanda, Mukuralinda explained that the two countries have not concluded any extradition treaties or agreements on the exchange of criminal suspects.

He also noted that many Rwandans fled to Burundi after participating in the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994 in Rwanda, just as 16 Burundians had taken part in the genocide.

"Rwanda wanted to conclude an agreement on the exchange of criminal suspects with Burundi, but the latter rejected this request," said the deputy spokesperson.

Mukuralinda emphasized that while Burundi cannot expel its citizens, it is still responsible for investigating and bringing them to justice. However, this responsibility has simply not been fulfilled.

Regarding Burundians involved in the attempted coup who are currently in Rwanda, the spokesperson explained that the Burundian administration had withdrawn from ongoing talks on this issue.

Mukuralinda explained that several reasons justify why an exiled crime suspect cannot be extradited immediately, including ongoing case examination, their legal refugee status, and their appeal against the decision to return them to the country they fled from. This was therefore the subject of discussion between Rwanda and Burundi.

"These are the topics we were discussing, but the Burundians are not telling us why they decided to withdraw from the talks," Mukuralinda lamented.

According to the Rwandan Prosecutor General’s Office, not less than 1,148 fugitives accused of serious crimes, some of whom are hosted in neighboring countries like Burundi, are currently evading justice.

Ndayishimiye claims that Rwanda refuses to transfer individuals suspected of being involved in the attempt to overthrow Burundian government in May 2015.