Rwanda, Burundi Move to Restore Security Ties

Rwanda and Burundi have shown signs of restoring relations caused by political row following a high level meeting of intelligence officials that took place in the Eastern Province.

Military intelligence chiefs from the two countries met Wednesday at Nemba One Stop Border Post in Bugesera District to iron out the differences that have led to a crisis, which began in 2015.

This is the first known physical high-level meeting that has convened officials from both countries in a while for both sides to discuss the strained relations.

The meeting kicked off at 9 am with each head of military intelligence addressing the delegates.

Brig. Gen. Vincent Nyakarundi, the Head of Defence Intelligence at the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) led the Rwandan delegation, while Col Everest Musaba, Burundi's chief of military intelligence led the Burundian delegation.

The closed door meeting which ended at 4 pm after two breaks saw each country's representative given a chance to provide update on security situation.

The meeting was facilitated by Col Leon Mahoungou, the Commander of the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism (EJVM), a regional military framework under the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).

"I am delighted with the results you achieved at the end of your discussions," Mahoungou told the delegates as he closed the meeting.

"I also note and with great satisfaction that the meeting led to your commitment to work for the return of security on your common borders," he added reading from a joint-communique.

According to the mediator, the two countries agreed that they must be "committed to restoring dialogue and communication between the two intelligence services."

They will seek advice from their chiefs of defence staff so that the exchange of information, as far as security along the two countries' borders is concerned, can be enhanced.

"We notice that now the two Heads of State are committed to communicating together and try to get solutions to get back to the formal relationship they had before," Mahoungou told the press after the meeting.

Resolving differences could help people who live along the common borders, and fight armed groups.

Political row

Diplomatic relations between Rwanda and Burundi deteriorated in 2015 after the late President Pierre Nkurunziza was re-elected for a controversial third term for presidency.

In October the same year, Burundi expelled Rwanda's top diplomat, Desire Nyaruhirira, over allegation of plans to destabilise the country, allegations that Rwanda denied.

Rwanda has received several attacks on borders that it shares with Burundi and the attackers have been repulsed and retreated back into Burundi.

Past reports from the UN experts have pinned Burundi members and accused the Burundian Government for training, arming and providing logistical support to rebels hostile to Rwanda.

This was confirmed by different former insurgents who were captured and extradited to Rwanda, including former RNC militiamen led by Maj (rtd) Habib Mudathiru.

During a news conference recently, Foreign Affairs minister Vincent Biruta said there ongoing efforts through formal and informal channels with the new Burundian leadership led by Maj Gen Evariste Ndayishimiye to restore ties of the two countries.

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