As accusations and counter accusations continue between East Africa Community’s members; Rwanda and Burundi as well as the uncertainty about the results from presidential elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo, more refugees have continued to seek safety in Rwanda, local media reports.
The New Times reports that, 25 Burundian refugees crossed the border to Rwanda to seek asylum at the weekend. They were received at Nemba border post and transferred to Gashora Transit Camp in Bugesera District. The group was made up of three men, seven women and 15 children. However, there has been a constant surge of Burundian asylum seekers into Rwanda of recent.
“Every month, we take groups of new arrivals to Mahama refugee camp after receiving them here in the transit camp. Last month we took about 60 of them,” Simon Nkurayiza, the camp manager said. He added that it was unusual to receive such a large number in one day, in the recent past.
Currently, Rwanda hosts more than 56,000 Burundian refugees in Mahama camp in Kirehe District Eastern Province, while others sought refuge in cities, especially in the country’s capital city Kigali.
In a related development, the number Congolese nationals crossing into Rwanda through the border town of Rubavu from Goma has increased. Those who have sought temporary stay in Rwanda have cited fear of a possible conflict in DR Congo. This has led to the demand for houses to shot up. Some hotels and guest houses in Rubavu town have been fully booked by Congolese nationals as well as employees of some international Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) who crossed the border fearing possible post-election violence.
The Mayor of Rubavu District, Gilbert Habyarima, told this local press that they are already informed about a number of Congolese crossing over to Rwanda.
“It is true, we are aware of the development. The Congolese are coming massively thanks to the security in our country,” he said.
However, the mayor said he can’t tell the exact number of Congolese who have since arrived in the district.
“What is true is that a number of Congolese people who cross our borders have increased significantly, especially for those who prefer to spend their nights in Rubavu town due to security concerns,” he said.
Habyarimana assured that the district together with other partners has taken different measures to control the traffic movement in interest of the area residents and any other persons who reside or visit the town.
“All those involved in delivering services to host Congolese who are coming are encouraged to deliver good services as well as complying with our laws,” he noted.
As early as late 2018, President Pierre Nkurunziza asked the East African Community to urgently convene an extraordinary summit to address the differences the ongoing standoff between Burundi and Rwanda.
Nkurunziza has on several occasions accused Rwanda of harbouring dissidents.
“We want EAC to intervene because the matter involves armed groups… People are getting killed and it shouldn’t be taken lightly,” he said. “Burundi does not harbour bad intentions; Rwanda does, and we will continue to say it.”
Kigali has repeatedly denied allegations that it is meddling in Burundi’s politics, with President Paul Kagame recently saying Bujumbura has repeatedly provoked Kigali. Relations between Burundi and Rwanda have deteriorated over the recent times, with armed attacks resulting in the deaths of civilians and fighters among border communities.
While presiding over a Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) drill dubbed “Exercise Hard Punch III” at Gabiro Combat Training Centre in the Eastern Province, President Paul Kagame warned what he termed as enemies of Rwanda, that they will be dealt with decisively.
Tensions hit an all-time low when a letter by President Nkurunziza to President Yoweri Museveni, the chairman of East African Community was leaked accusing Kigali of being an enemy of his government.
Nkurunziza accused Rwanda of being behind the 2015 failed coup, harbouring coup plotters and facilitating those wishing to destabilise Burundi. Rwanda has persistently denied the accusations and accused Bujumbura of failing to deal with its own crisis.