Rwanda and Burundi are on a new journey to end hostilities against each other and will formally restore brotherly relations very soon.
The President of Burundi, Maj. Gen Evariste Ndayishimiye says his country is ready to open a new chapter with Rwanda.
In response, Rwandan Prime Minister has said his country is also ready for a new friendship with her neighbour.
“The time has come for Burundi and Rwanda to build on the solid foundations of our historical and cultural ties in order to achieve sustainable development,” said Rwanda’s Prime Minister, Dr. Edouard Ngirente, who was in Burundi, to attend the 59th Independence celebrations on July 1, 2021.
President Ndayishimiye said that the presence of Dr Ngirente was a “miracle” after several years of frosty ties.
“We are confident that this has opened a new chapter of relations between Rwanda and Burundi. We will revisit the issues that affected us, put them in the past and open a new chapter,” Ndayishimiye said.
Dr. Ngirente’s presence at the ceremony was greeted by ululations that signalled progress in efforts by the two countries to normalize relations which have deteriorated since 2015.
Dr Ngirente arrived in Bujumbura aboard a RwandAir flight and later joined the celebrations in the capital attended by President Ndayishimiye, his wife, government officials and dignitaries from the region.
Dr Ngirente sat alongside his Burundian counterpart Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni and the Prime Minister of Tanzania, Kassim Majaliwa, in the same row with President Ndayishimiye and President Archange Touadera of Central African Republic (CAR).
The Burundian President said that having a delegation from Rwanda as Burundi celebrated her independence was a strong signal of a new chapter in the relations of the two countries.
“I know today every Burundian is happy because our neighbours from Rwanda are here with us today to support us,” President Ndayishimiye said before inviting Dr. Ngirente to address the crowd.
The Rwandan premier said his government was happy for the invitation to be part of the independence celebrations.
“I am convinced that we are all ready to work for the consolidation and promotion of the existing relations and cooperation, to take advantage of the friendship of our two peoples. I would like to express our commitment as the Government of Rwanda to work with you the People of Burundi and the President of the Republic to strengthen our strategic partnership,” said Dr Ngirente.
Rwanda and Burundi started normalizing ties since the election of a new government in Bujumbura headed by President Ndayishimiye.
The East African member states seem tired of conflicts and have embarked on a reconciliation path.
Foreign Affairs Ministers of the two neighbouring East African states recently met to iron out the security concerns between themselves that led to closure of the border partitioning them. Bujumbura expressed the willingness to talk to Rwanda, with this being the first meeting for the Foreign Affairs Ministers since 2015.
This crucial meeting came at the heels of that of security chiefs of the two countries in late August. Officials of the two neighbours have not met nor cooperated since 2015. The military intelligence officials that met agreed to “work towards the return of security to their common borders.”
A clash over the M23 rebel group in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo at a meeting of regional leaders in November 2012 saw a marked worsening of the relationship between President Pierre Nkurunziza, who has since passed on and President Paul Kagame.
Diplomatic relations further deteriorated in 2015, after President Pierre Nkurunziza was re-elected for a third term.
In October 2015, Burundi expelled Rwanda’s top diplomat, Desire Nyaruhirira, over allegation of plans to destabilise the country, and both countries increasingly been accusing each other of supporting its opponents.
An estimated 230 000 Burundians fled to neighboring countries since April 2015, many to Rwanda, leading Kagame to criticize Nkurunziza’s decision to seek his controversial third term in office.
However, after the unexpected death of Nkurunziza on June 8, 2020 and the swearing in of a new government headed by President Évariste Ndayishimiye, Burundi and Rwanda are back to talking terms.
Burundi refugees have also started leaving their camp in Rwanda. About 60,000 Burundian refugees have been living in Mahama camp, in eastern Rwanda, since the 2015 political crisis over the late former President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term.
The two neighbouring countries share a lot in common in terms of culture, language, and both gained independence from Belgium at the same time, on July 1, 1962.