Passengers from Burundi to Kampala are no longer obliged to pass through Tanzania. Since two months, travel agencies can also go through Kigali. It is a huge relief for traders and passengers.
Shopkeepers sourcing from Uganda welcome the situation. "Kigali way is too short and the transportation conditions are safer than the Tanzanian one", says a trader who buys her goods from Kampala, Uganda.
Passengers departing from Bujumbura at 600 a.m. arrive at Kampala at 500 a.m. of the next day when they pass through Kigali. But going to Kampala through Tanzania, four hours are added to the distance.
She says the Bujumbura-Kampala route via Kigali has significant advantages. "Not only, is the time shorter but also, the travel is more comfortable given that drivers might respect the limited speed, what is different when we go to Kampala via Tanzania ", she says.
Another passenger says using Kigali way is easy to find something to eat along the way. "There are enormous food distribution shops all along the way compared to the Tanzanian way where we make a long distance without finding any restaurant. Tanzania is bigger and has many forests", he says.
Traders, however, say the bus fares haven't considerably changed. "There is only a small difference of BIF 5,000. We pay BIF 50,000 when we go through Kigali and BIF 45,000 when using the Tanzanian way", says the passenger. He says the difference is due to the devaluation of Burundian franc. The employees of Platinum and Friends-Mayfair, the only agencies operating from Burundi to the regional countries, say passengers may use both ways depending on which one they prefer.
The manager of Platinum says passengers themselves choose the way they would like to use. "We only pass through Gasenyi border-Kirundo province to travel to Kampala via Kigali or Kobero border-Tanzania to Kampala", he says.
For an employee at " Friends-Mayfair ", it is a question of habit. "Some passengers are close to Rwandans instead of Tanzanians and prefer to travel via Kigali. Others use the Tanzanian way because their native provinces are near Tanzania", he says.
Since Burundi has plunged into a crisis that erupted in 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would run for another term, travel agencies as Volcano, Jaguar and GaaGa that used to travel to the regional countries via Kigali were not allowed to cross the borders. Then, passengers had to use two buses from one border to another.