Fleeing Burundi Refugees Boost Rwanda’s Border Business

The value of Rwandan currency continues to depreciate against the US dollar as local traders reap big from the influx of refugees from Burundi for the past two weeks.

This, analysts say, is an awkward situation, but “an unavoidable reality.”

Rwanda’s central Bank, announced on April 30, that the price of a US dollar is now between Rwf 710 -717. However, prices on the streets are now between Rwf 720-725.   Last month, the US dollar cost Rwf 689-700.

As political violence eats-up Burundi, across the border in Rwanda, business is booming. The prices of essential food products have hiked by 100% in border districts of Bugesera, Rusizi and Huye.

Marie Claire Joyeuse, a Kigali Today journalist based in Huye district told KTPress that demand for food products is shooting through the roof.

“As of Wednesday April 29, prices of carrots and tomatoes had increased by 100%,” she said adding that the border district is flooded by “Many Burundian elites.” “You can see them all over Huye town,” she said.

In Kigali, Rwanda’s Capital, the number of vehicles with Burundian number plates has increased. Many Burundians are seen in restaurants and hangout spots.

A senior government official, Sylvère Nimpagaritse, the vice-president of Burundian Constitutional Court fled into Rwanda Monday evening, according to Rwandan officials.

Frederick Ntawukuriryayo, media relations officer at Rwanda Ministry of Refugees and Disaster Management confirmed to KTPress that, “Yes, we have some who entered the country, and sought urban refugee, including two Burgomasters [mayors].”

Thousands of Burundians from the rural continue to flock in refugee camps. Many have walked long distances into Rwanda, others rode on bikes, and some ferried by Rwandan buses.

Burundians walking from villages across the country heading to Bujumbura capital in protest against President Nkurunziza's intentions to seek re-election this year
Burundians walking from villages across the country heading to Bujumbura capital in protest against President Nkurunziza’s intentions to seek re-election this year

As the violence intensifies, especially in capital Bujumbura, Burundi’s Red Cross says at least 12 people have been killed, and more refugees are expected. As of May 5, according to Rwanda Immigration Services, more than 25,000 refugees have entered the country.

The Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Preparedness (MIDMAR) is now providing basic needs including; shelter, food and vaccination to children against rubella, measles and polio upon arrival.

Over 5000 children aged between 0-15 years old have been vaccinated. “It is very important to administer the vaccine to prevent any health outbreak with such an influx of people in the country,” says Nathan Mugume, Director of Health Communication Department at Rwanda

Seraphine Mukantabana, the Minister of MIDMAR told KTPress that four camps have been established to cater for over 25,000 refugees. She said Rwanda’s capacity will break at 50,000 refugees. Beyond that, it will become an uncontrollable crisis.

The deteriorating situation is making Rwanda jittery and that increasing reports of targeting unarmed civilians are particularly “worrying”.

Today, for the first time, Rwanda has spoken out on the violence.

“My country is worried about Burundi,” said Foreign Affairs Minister, Louise Mushikiwabo.  She tweeted earlier today that, “The imperative of peace is needed.”

Embattled Burundi President Nkuruziza meeting Rwanda's President Paul Kagame in Huye District
Embattled Burundi President Nkuruziza meeting Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame in Huye District

On April 13, President Paul Kagame received his Burundian counterpart, Pierre Nkurunziza in Huye district, a border town to Burundi in Southern Rwanda.

The two presidents discussed Burundi’s political turmoil and insecurity concerns that have caused an influx of thousands of Burundian refugees to Rwanda.

In a statement she issued last evening, Minister Mushikiwabo, who serves as Rwanda’s spokesperson, asked Burundi to take “immediate necessary steps to ensure the protection of its population end the worsening humanitarian situation and restore peace.”

“While we respect Burundi’s sovereignty in addressing internal matters, Rwanda considers the safety of innocent population as a regional and international responsibility,” the Minister said.

Meanwhile, Rwanda has pointed out another concern, which it said is tantamount to a serious provocation.

Reports of links to FDLR have pressed a red button in Kigali. While Mushikiwabo diplomatically passed the message in her statement, the tone was very loud and clear.

“We appeal to leaders of Burundi to do everything in their power to bring the country back to a peaceful situation,” she added.

Protesters in Bujumbura Capital set fire demanding President Nkurunziza steps down after his term in office this year.
Protesters in Bujumbura Capital set fire demanding President Nkurunziza steps down after his term in office this year.


Reporting by: Patrick Bigabo, Dan Ngabonziza, Magnus Mazimpaka & Jean de La Croix Tabaro

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