President Paul Kagame says relations with Burundi have improved greatly in recent months and more will be done together with President Evariste Ndayishimiye, to fully restore ties, in order for the citizens of the two countries to co-exist.
The Head of State made the remarks on Tuesday at Parliament while officiating at the swearing-in ceremony of the newly appointed Minister of Infrastructure, Dr. Ernest Nsabimana, and the Minister of State in the Ministry of Infrastructure, Eng. Patricie Uwase.
President Kagame said the issues between Rwanda and Burundi, including insecurity along the shared border, can be easily addressed & soon will be got out of the way for the people of the two countries to freely move across the borders. He emphasized the will on both sides.
“As you might have noticed, for a while now our leaders have been meeting their colleagues from Burundi on the border or inside Burundi. Recently, the President of Burundi sent me emissaries with his message,”
“We want to continue on the path to fully restore ties between our two countries. I can therefore say we’ve seen a number of steps being taken and there is good progress. In the coming days, our relations will continue to improve and go back to where it was before,” President Kagame.
The Head of State said that they will address all the issues relating to security, particularly cross-border infiltrators in Nyungwe and Kibira forests on either side of the border, saying that their time is up. He pointed out that the two countries will work out a solution for that, adding that the issues will be easily dealt with.
On relations with Uganda, President Kagame touched on recent developments, including the reopening of the Gatuna OSBP, once again reiterating the issues which in the first place led to the closure of the border. He also used the opportunity to give the background of the problem.
President Kagame once again talked about the issue of the safety of Rwandans in Uganda, which to date remains, where hundreds of Rwandans are arbitrarily arrested on accusations of espionage -something he said resulted into persecution and mistreatment of many innocent people, while on the other hand, individuals linked to groups fighting the government of Rwanda would not be arrested but rather facilitated.
He pointed out that Rwanda raised the issues with Uganda for a long time but there was little or no action, which among other things led to the closure of the Gatuna OSPB. He pointed out that several envoys were sent from Uganda to discuss the matter and agree on a solution.
“On one hand, the issue was partly about the closing of the border, which I can say Rwanda did but on the other hand, there are issues that led to the closure of the border. We didn’t just wake up to close the border. There was a reason and we had always said that we cannot reopen the border, before the issues that led to its closure are resolved,” President Kagame said.
“In the past days, Uganda sent some emissaries with whom we agreed during our discussions to take some action. I maintained that reopening the border is a good thing but the issues that led to its closure must be addressed. We agreed that this will be taken care of,” President Kagame said, adding that not so long ago, Rwandan in Ugandan were being hunted like animals.
“They said Rwandans were going to Uganda to spy. I used to hear these stories and I am well conversant with espionage. You cannot send all those Rwandans, in their thousands, to go and spy, including children and old women. The cost of that would not be anywhere near what you want to achieve. You would really have to be stupid,” President Kagame said.
The Head of State said that it was agreed that Uganda would address these issues and in turn Rwanda agreed to reopen the border, but in line with existing Covid-19 restrictions. He however seemed to indicate that there is more to be done by Uganda in addressing the issues.
He also mentioned that among other things, Rwanda learnt that there are some people who attacked Rwanda (Kinigi, October 2019) & escaped to Uganda and were supposedly arrested but later it emerged that they were released & allowed to go back to DR Congo where they operated from.
On DRC, President Kagame yet again criticized peacekeeping efforts in the eastern part of the country, saying that rather than working towards full restoration of peace, the deployment seems focused more on sustaining the existing conditions for the operation to stay in place.
He said that the multibillion-dollar deployment of forces in DRC has become a business for some who would rather make sure that the country remains volatile so that they can find a reason to stay, which according to him does not make sense at all. He said that rebel groups which threaten Rwanda’s security remain active in DRC, particularly the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).
“Our enemy who has been there for the last 25 years. What was put in place to address this issue, it looks like it is being used to nurture the problem and help it to continue to grow. It seems like it is being used to keep some people employed and paid under the pretext that they are addressing this problem,”
“I cannot understand how this issue can last for more than 20 years and costs billions of dollars but never gets solved. There is something incomprehensible,” the Head of State said.
Still on DRC, President Kagame talked about the presence of Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels, a group he said is no longer a concern of Uganda only. He pointed out that Rwanda arrested members of ADF in the country and it was found that they are linked to the Islamic State in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique.
President Kagame explained to Parliament the rationale of Rwanda Forces remaining in the Central African Republic and Mozambique, pointing out that the reason that took them there is yet to be achieved, emphasizing the importance of Rwanda continuing to support the said states.