Rwanda Looks Forward to Return of Stability in Burundi, Says Mushikiwabo

Rwanda will not trade accusations or get involved in blame game over the crisis in Burundi, Foreign Affairs minister Louise Mushikiwabo has said.

Addressing a news conference in Kigali yesterday, Mushikiwabo, told journalists that “Burundi’s problem is not Rwanda; Burundi’s problem is Burundi,” adding that Rwanda is interested in having stable neighbours.

Burundian officials have chosen to blame Rwanda for the ongoing strife but Minister Mushikiwabo said the Rwandan government has preferred to approach the issue with calm because Burundians are both neighbours and relatives.

Following the political turmoil, about 70,000 Burundian refugees have fled to Rwanda with most of them living in refugee camps.

Mushikiwabo, who is also the government spokesperson, said Rwanda is looking forward to when normalcy will return to Burundi so the two countries can address issues affecting their relationship.

“As Rwanda and the Rwandan government, as neighbours and as relatives of Burundians, we chose to be careful about the Burundi issue. We chose to wait so that there is a way to solve Burundi’s issue first, we waited for the country to be organised first before we can initiate talks and discuss all the issues we have with an organised and calm Burundian government,” she said.

Diplomatic tensions between Rwanda and Burundi became apparent in September when Bujumbura filed an official complaint with the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), accusing Rwanda of acts of aggression on its territory.

“We are not in the logic of exchanging accusations and denials. We are in the logic of the normalisation of the situation in Burundi after which we can resolve all the problems,” Mushikiwabo said.

With increasing reports of Rwandans being arbitrary arrested and tortured in Burundi, the minister advised Rwandans against travelling to Burundi.

“You must understand and you should know that you cannot have a difficult situation like you have in Burundi and then have life as normal; it’s not possible. So, when there is trouble in a country, when there is violence, when there are killings, I personally would not get on a bus and go. What I’m saying is that there is danger: when you see Burundians running away, if I were Rwandan, I would think twice about going to that place,” she said.

Sending troops to Burundi?

Responding to whether Rwanda would send troops to Burundi if asked by the African Union to do so in the interest of bringing back peace to the country, the minister said the decision would depend on whether the Burundians would welcome the Rwandan army.

“Rwanda will never send troops where the receiving country is not ready. If Burundi is ready we will be happy but if they are not, we always want our troops to be in an environment where they can make a difference,” she told journalists.

“I don’t know what was expected of Rwanda; to send our army to Burundi? We can’t do that. We hope and want Burundi to get back on track quickly. There are issues that Rwanda will raise with Burundi but not now. We want Burundi to recover, we want Burundians to get back to a normal life and we will have time to deal with these issues,” she said.

The minister also addressed other issues, including Rwanda’s relations with France, which seem frosty with Rwanda having put the accreditation of the new French Ambassador to Rwanda on hold.

Mushikiwabo said the government wants France to get serious with the normalisation of relations with Rwanda by getting more engaged in trying Genocide suspects who are roaming free in France while also learning to accept the fact that France played a role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

“It’s not by accrediting the ambassador that we can move forward. We hope that the French leadership will be sincere. Our diplomacy is about being sincere, it’s about being able to solve problems,” she said, adding that there is no deadline for approving the new ambassador.

On the FDLR issue, the minister welcomed a recent agreement between Rwandan and Congolese security officials to work together to eliminate the militia.

While still the Congolese defence minister, Aimé Lusa-Diese Ngoi-Mukena met his Rwandan counterpart James Kabarebe in Kigali last month and agreed that the two countries will work together to eliminate FDLR.