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Burundi closes borders with Rwanda

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Burundi has closed its border with Rwanda, nearly two weeks after accusing its neighbor of supporting rebels who carried out attacks on its soil.

Burundi says the RED-Tabara group staged an attack on December 22 near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), killing 20 people, including women and children.

President Evariste Ndayishimiye has since accused Rwanda of backing the rebels-a claim denied by the Rwandan government.

ALSO  READ: Rwanda responds to Burundi’s borders closure

The group, which has a base in the eastern DRC province of South Kivu, emerged in 2011 and is now the most active of Burundi’s rebel forces with an estimated 500 to 800 fighters.

“We have closed our borders (with Rwanda), anyone who tries to go there will not get through. The decision has been made,” Burundi’s Interior Minister Martin Niteretse told reporters on Thursday.

“After having noted that we had a bad neighbour, (Rwandan President) Paul Kagame… we stopped all relations with him until he returns to better feelings,” the minister added.

He said Rwanda “shelters criminals who harm Burundians. Rwandan nationals, we don’t want them,” Niteretse said.

A witness present at the Kanyaru-Haut border post told AFP they had crossed the border at around 1240 GMT and that it had been closed shortly afterwards.

Relations between Burundi and Rwanda have often been tempestuous.

Although ties began improving after Ndayishimiye took power in 2020, they have soured again over Burundi’s involvement in the DRC.

Burundian forces have for several years been conducting joint operations with their Congolese counterparts against rebels in the restive and mineral-rich eastern DRC, which has long been plagued by numerous armed groups.

One of them, the M23 rebellion that Western governments and the United Nations say is backed by Rwanda-allegations Kigali always denies.

Burundi closed its border with Rwanda in 2015 amid mutual claims of supporting rebel groups.

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