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Burundi and Rwanda have in the recent past made “very good progress” in improving their relations, Burundi's Minister for East African Community Affairs, Amb Nibigira Ezechiel, told members of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) on Tuesday, November 23.

The Minister was responding to lawmakers questions regarding the six-member bloc’s peace and security strategy, among others, on behalf of the Chairperson of the Council of Ministers, Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of EAC and Regional Development, Adan Mohamed.

Nibigira's remarks were particularly in response to a report on the implementation of the bloc’s peace and security strategy, a report that pointed to various challenges including inadequate funding.

He stressed that countries in the region very well know that peace and security are the foundations of development of each country and are, therefore, working towards resolving pertinent issues.

Nibigira then told the Assembly that there were positive steps he did not see mentioned in the committee's report.

He said: “In our East African region, we are making good steps towards improving peace and security. I want to recall the steps that have been made. And these steps were not mentioned in in the report but some of our members of Parliament have mentioned them.

“I want to recall that Burundi made effort to help Rwanda when the terrorists who were preparing to attack Rwanda were arrested and they were handed over to Rwanda,  two times. This is a very good progress we are making. And Rwanda, they handed over terrorists who attacked Burundi. This is a very good gesture that they (Rwanda) made.”

The minister also noted that leaders in the EAC are working to help his country get out of “sanctions illegally imposed” on it by the EU.

“This shows that as a community we are moving together. I want to encourage each and everybody so that this spirit may last for long. This is the spirit that will help our community to move forward and to become very strong.”

Burundi on October 19 handed over to Rwanda 11 anti-Rwanda fighters of the Force Nationale de Libération (FLN) terror outfit.

In July 2021, Rwanda had also extradited 19 combatants of Red Tabara, an armed group that started a rebellion against the Burundian government in 2015. Rwanda, through the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism (EJVM), repatriated 19 Burundian combatants.

Diplomatic relations between Rwanda and Burundi deteriorated in 2015. In October that year, Burundi expelled Rwanda’s top diplomat, Desire Nyaruhirira, over allegations of plans to destabilise the country, allegations that Rwanda denied.

The two countries traded accusations and counter accusations of harbouring militia forces intent on destabilizing each other. 

 More recently, however, officials from both sides have described their bilateral relations as 'progressive', especially after Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente, on July 1, travelled to Bujumbura, Burundi, for the country’s 59th Independence Day celebrations.

In September, Rwanda’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr Vincent Biruta, met with his Burundian counterpart Amb Albert Shingiro on the sidelines of the 76th United Nations General Assembly in New York, United States. 

The two exchanged on matters of bilateral relations between the two countries, and the road to normalisation. - James Karuhanga, The New Times

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