Burundi’s decision to close its border with Rwanda is already creating ripple effects within the East African Community (EAC), with neighbouring countries including Kenya and Uganda set to be affected.
The Burundian government closed the border on Thursday, January 11, citing threats posed by rebels – the RED-Tabara group – on the country and further accused Rwanda of funding the militia.
The RED-Tabara rebel group from Congo which has been causing unrest in Burundi staged an attack in December 2023, killing twenty people.
Rwanda led by President Paul Kagame, however, refuted the claims. It further sounded a warning, asking EAC countries to brace for losses as trade and movement of people and goods will be limited.
A photo of Prime CS Musalia Mudavadi in Burundi on October 2, 2023.
Office of the Prime Cabinet Secretary
“This unfortunate decision will restrict the free circulation of people and goods between the two countries and violate the principles of regional cooperation and the integration of the East Africa Community,” Rwanda noted.
“We also regret the unilateral closure of the border by Burundi,” Rwanda added.
Earlier, Burundi’s Interior Minister Martin Niteretse stated that anyone who tries to go through the borders will not be granted access.
In his presser with reporters on Thursday, Niteretse added “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.”
Kenya is set to suffer a blow as it relies on Rwanda and Burundi’s border to access the Burundian market.
According to a route tracker from the Logistics Cluster, an expert in humanitarian logistics, Kenya accesses Burundi through the northern corridor that connects Bujumbura to Mombasa via the cities of Nairobi in Kenya, Kampala in Uganda and Kigali in Rwanda a distance of about 2040 kilometres.
Burundi, which is landlocked relies on the Mombasa and Dar es Salaam ports for its international trade, where most goods are delivered to the country by road.
In addition, Kenya’s exports to Burundi exceed Ksh10 billion per year with the leading exports being coffee, steel and iron.
Kenya has yet to respond to the border closure. However, the matter may surface in a planned meeting between President William Ruto and Yoweri Museveni who are set to hold talks on the oil importation row between the two countries.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame.