Rwanda’s compassion: Five instances of life-saving support to Burundi

By Esther Muhozi
On 16 January 2024 at 09:45

Rwanda has consistently demonstrated a remarkable culture of assistance by extending support to various countries in need. Among its noteworthy efforts are the intervention of RPA-Inkotanyi soldiers in July 1994 to halt the Genocide against the Tutsi, subsequent peacekeeping missions in countries like Sudan, the Central African Republic, Haiti, and Mozambique, and other instances of humanitarian aid.

Despite occasional tensions, Rwanda has played a crucial role in supporting its neighbor, Burundi, during critical times. Here are five pivotal moments highlighting Rwanda’s assistance to Burundi.

Debt settlement in the East African Community

In December 2008, despite being in the early stages of development, Rwanda, moved by a sense of fraternity, paid off Burundi’s outstanding contribution of 1 million dollars to the East African Community (EAC). This act not only showcased Rwanda’s benevolence but also prevented Burundi from facing disruptions in EAC activities, given its challenges in meeting financial obligations due to an unstable economy.

Bujumbura Market Fire

In January 2013, a devastating fire engulfed the main market of Bujumbura, Burundi. As Burundian police’s efforts proved futile, the Rwandan army swiftly dispatched two helicopters to help contain the blaze. The market, housing assets worth billions of Burundian francs, suffered severe damage. Rwanda’s prompt response demonstrated its commitment to supporting Burundi during emergencies.

Bujumbura market suffered severe damage after catching fire in 2013.
Rwandan army's helicopters were deployed to put out fire that engulfed Bujumbura market.

Rescue Operation in the Central African Republic

On December 25, 2020, Burundian troops in the Central African Republic (CAR) faced an attack by an armed group. The Rwandan special forces, located 70 kilometers away, played a pivotal role in rescuing besieged Burundian soldiers. Despite the challenges, the Rwandan army successfully neutralized the threat, retrieving captured military assets and returning the bodies of fallen soldiers to Burundi.

Arrest and Handover of RED Tabara Fighters

In September 2020, the armed group RED Tabara engaged in a fierce battle with the Burundian army. Fleeing to Nyungwe Park in Ruheru, Rwandan soldiers apprehended 19 RED Tabara fighters along with weapons and ammunition. In an act of cooperation, Rwanda handed over the captured fighters to Burundi in July 2021, showcasing a commitment to regional stability.

In September 2020, Rwanda handed over combatants from RED Tabara to Burundi.

Warning of Coup Plot

In September 2022, President Ndayishimiye of Burundi faced an attempted overthrow, leading to the removal and imprisonment of General Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni, the former Prime Minister.

Amidst complex geopolitical dynamics, Bunyoni claimed that Rwanda had access to his phone, providing information to Burundi. While neither country confirmed nor denied these allegations, the situation highlighted the delicate nature of regional relationships.