Burundi-Rwanda feud deepens as Bujumbura expels diplomat

President Pierre Nkunziza of Burundi

President Pierre Nkunziza of Burundi

As a sign diplomatic relations between Bujumbura and Kigali are worsening the Burundian government has reportedly expelled a Rwandan diplomat accusing him of illegally possessing weapons and fueling the prevailing insecurity in the Central African state.

Sources within government have confirmed to Afrika Reporter Desire Nyaruhirira has been asked to leave Burundi although neither Rwanda nor Burundi has officially commented on the development.

This website tried to get some details from Burundi Foreign Affairs Ministry in vain as they said they were “in an important meeting.”

The diplomat’s reported expulsion comes days after the Burundian government officially accused Rwanda of  training rebels and aiding the conflict in the country.

“It is hosting Burundi’s failed coup leader, and helping rebels launch cross-border attacks,” Foreign Minister Alain Nyamitwe said last week.

In July, the Burundian Military revealed it had quelled a rebel attack, killed 31 combatants and captured another 170 in the northwestern part of the country, at that time area residents told the media they had seen about 300-400 armed militant crossing into Burundi from Rwanda.

The Burundian military paraded the captured combatants along with dozens of weapons and ammunition before the media.

Despite all these reports, the Rwandan government has denied having any hand in the conflict that has paralyzed its southern neighbour.

Just last month Burundi arrested and detained about 30 Rwandan citizens who were visiting Bujumbura, after some intense diplomatic negotiations between the two countries 14 Rwandans were released but its unclear whether or not the remaining 16 have been freed.

“It is true there are still more Rwandans being held in Burundi. We don’t want this to go the legal way, we want them to be released through diplomatic efforts, and our ambassadors are working tirelessly on this matter,” Johnston Busingye, Rwanda’s Minister of Justice said in September.

Rwanda hosts more than 20,000 Burundian refugees who have fled their home country in the course of the 6-month conflict and among these refugees are high profile government officials who sought refugee in Kigali after they opposed President Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial third term.

Although not publicly naming Rwanda, in his inaugural address, President Nkurunziza seemed to send a signal to Kigali that his forces are well trained and equipped to deal with any threat be it internal or external.

“We would like to announce to all Burundians and international community that after this electoral process, the country is going to enjoy a new era of durable peace, security and prosperity. We warn whoever will try to constitute an obstacle, be it a Burundian or a foreigner, we will combat them and they will be in trouble,” Nkurunziza said in August.

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda

Nkurunziza’s counterpart in Rwanda, President Paul Kagame has also weighed in on the Burundi turmoil implying in May that the Burundian leader should have respected the will of the Burundian people and not run for the third term.

“If your own citizens are telling you we don’t want you to do this or to lead us, it is because they are saying you are not delivering much to us. So how do you say I am staying anyway whether you want me or not? This is a serious problem,” President Kagame was quoted as saying in May, in the early days of the anti-third term protests in Bujumbura.