Burundi shuts border with Rwanda amid spat

KIGALI/BUJUMBURA (Reuters) – The Rwandan government on Thursday said Burundi had decided to shut its border with the East African nation, weeks after the Burundian president accused it of hosting a rebel group.

Burundi’s President Evariste Ndayishimiye in late December accused Rwanda of hosting and training the Red Tabara rebel group, which claimed responsibility for an attack near Burundi’s western border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Rwanda has rejected his allegations.

Rwanda learned about Burundi’s decision through media reports, a government spokesperson told Reuters, adding it violated the principles of a regional bloc both are part of.

“This unfortunate decision will restrict the free movement of people and goods between the two countries, and violates the principles of regional cooperation and integration of the East African Community,” said Yolande Makolo, a spokesperson for the Rwandan government.

Relations between some nations within the bloc have been frosty for years amid domestic disputes, which also include Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia.

“Today we closed the borders. And someone who will go there will not pass,” Burundi’s interior minister Martin Niteretse was quoted as saying by the local media.

The minister did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

Burundi has said the December attack claimed the lives of 20 people while Red Tabara said on social media platform X that it only killed nine soldiers and a police officer.

Red Tabara has been battling Burundi’s government from bases in eastern Congo since 2015.

(Reporting by Philbert Girinema in Kigali and Clement Manirabarusha in Bujumbura, Writing by Bhargav Acharya; Editing by Aurora Ellis)