Rwanda and Burundi have negotiated a path towards enforcing security at their common border, a move aimed at ending longstanding hostilities and a return to the good relations they once shared.
For the first time since 2015, military intelligence officials from both countries met on Wednesday at the frontier Nemba town and agreed to “work towards the return of security to their common borders.”
“This collective commitment augurs for a hopeful future for both Rwanda and Burundi, whose people share a common history,” reads a statement by the meeting’s facilitator, Col Leon Mahoungou of the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism, a regional military framework under the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).
“I am very satisfied with the results of this exchange. Both parties took a commitment to resolve the security problems on the common border. They expressed readiness to share information, open dialogue between their defence leadership and cooperate to restore security on their common border in the interest of peace and security in the region,” Col Mahoungou said.
He added: “This concerns the persistence of insecurity at the common border and the ways of solving this problem. The many unfortunate incidents that have recently occurred there have been of concern to the Great Lakes region. This is also why we were present in this meeting in order to find the elements of a solution that can help improve cooperation at all levels, starting with the military intelligence services.”
However, no agreement was signed between the two countries, and the commitments they made remain as “promises to one another” that the ICGLR will continue to monitor to assess each party’s willingness to enforce the bargain.
Shortly after the meeting, the Rwanda Defence Forces released a statement noting that the meeting was “a good opportunity for exchange on the existing security problems, finding solutions and bring trust between the two countries.”
In the wee hours of Thursday morning, up to 500 Burundian refugees were facilitated to leave Rwanda for their home country, a move indicating renewed cooperation between the two neighbours.
More refugees are expected to leave Rwanda in coming weeks, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), citing a return to peace and the largely peaceful Burundi presidential election in May.
Rwanda hosts about 320,000 Burundian refugees as of May 31, who fled since April 2015, as well as some 37,000 other Burundian refugees who sought asylum prior to April 2015, according to UNHCR figure.
In the first six months of 2020 Rwandan received 657 Burundian refugees who were granted refugee status.