Rwanda, Burundi bicker over arrested militants

©The Citizen

Burundi has requested Rwanda to deport 19 combatants arrested on Kigali’s territory, a situation that could test the fragile relations between the two neighbours.
Rwanda said the fighters, who identified themselves as members of the “Red Tabara”, crossed into its territory on September 29, armed with guns, and were apprehended in Nyungwe Forest.
Rwanda’s military informed the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism (EJVM), a conflict monitoring team for the region, and invited it to investigate the cross-border incident.
On Sunday, the Burundian government issued a statement demanding their extradition, noting that they are “a group of armed bandits” that uses Rwanda as a hiding base to commit crimes in Burundi.
“A group of armed bandits from the Rwimbogo sector in Rwanda attacked two households and killed a 30-year-old man in Kayanza Province in Burundi.
“In pursuit by law enforcement, the group retreated to the hill from where it had come to Rwanda, taking with it seven goats stolen from the attacked households,” the statement reads.
Direct return
Burundi called on Rwanda to return the [suspected] criminals to it “without passing directly through other mechanisms, just as Burundi has always done in cases when Rwandan criminals are arrested in Burundi, so that they may be held accountable to justice”.
It added: “The government once again condemns this heinous act and welcomes the results of the exchange of information with the Rwandan local security forces, at the request of the Burundian security forces, which have made it possible to locate and track the movements of these criminals in their places of withdrawal.”
On Monday, officials from the regional military framework, the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism (EJVM), travelled to Nyaruguru District in the southern province, where the group is being detained, to investigate the cross border incident.
The team was briefed by RDF area commander, Major Alex Nkuranga, who narrated how the group was intercepted and arrested.
Longstanding tensions
Rwanda and Burundi have, over the years, traded accusations related to support of rebels opposed to their governments.
In a move aimed at quelling tensions, military officials from both countries met publicly in August, for the first time in five years, to discuss and find common ground on the longstanding tensions that have affected security, trade and movement along their border.
At the meeting, the countries negotiated a path towards enforcing security at their common border but no pact was signed.
Groups of Burundian refugees have also been voluntarily returning home over the last couple of weeks, and the UNHCR says many more are registering to return after a resumption to peace in their home country.