AFRICA/RWANDA - The Bishops of the Great Lakes: "Saddened by the closure of the border between Burundi and Rwanda"

Wednesday, 31 January 2024 bishops   armed groups

Kigali (Agenzia Fides) - "The recent decision to close the land border between Burundi and Rwanda has deeply saddened us given the impact it has on the lives of vulnerable people". This is how the bishops who are members of the Council of the Committee of the Episcopal Conference of Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) expressed their concern over the decision of the Burundian government to close the border with Rwanda, accused of supporting the Burundian RED Tabara rebellion. The organization which brings together the country's bishops held an assembly in the diocese of Ruhengeri (Rwanda) from January 23 to 26. In the Declaration read during the Mass for Peace celebrated in the Ruhengeri Cathedral on the evening of January 25, 2024, the bishops expressed their deep sadness at the persistence of poor relations between Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC, hoping that divisions will soon be overcome to build bonds of peace between the people of these three States. In this sense, the bishops said they were saddened by the recent decision of the Burundian government to close the land border between Rwanda and Burundi, thus affecting the populations living along the border. The meeting held in Rwanda was followed by a meeting in Goma (see Fides 29/1/2024) focused on the crisis in the east of the DRC. Rwanda has long been accused by the Congolese authorities of fomenting guerrilla groups on its territory, in particular the M23 movement, but now it emerges that Bujumbura also accuses Kigali of doing the same with the RED Tabara. On 11 January 2024, the Burundi government then announced the closure of the borders with Rwanda. The Burundi government claims that this decision was made because Rwanda would provide support to the rebels. The government of Rwanda denies the accusations made against it by the government of Burundi and has stated that the border remains open. RED-Tabara is a rebel group based in South Kivu, in eastern DRC, which has been fighting the Burundian government since 2015. The group had claimed responsibility for an attack that left 20 dead on the night of December 23 in Gatumba, in the Mutimbuzi district, in Bujumbura province, in western Burundi, near the border between Burundi and the DRC.
On December 29, the President of Burundi, Evariste Ndayishimiye, denounced the fact that the RED Tabara "are fed, protected, housed and maintained in terms of logistics and financial means by Rwanda". Ndayishimiye added that Burundi had negotiated in vain with Rwanda for two years to obtain the extradition of the rebels. "As long as they have a country that provides them with uniforms, feeds them, protects them, shelters them, maintains them, we will have problems", he concluded. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 31/1/2024)