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Rwanda-Burundi relations will improve when 2015 coup plotters, said to be hiding in Kigali, are handed over Gitega to face justice, said Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye.

Speaking last Tuesday at State House in Bujumbura, President Ndayishimiye said Burundi is already in talks with Rwandan authorities to normalise relations between the two countries that deteriorated seven years ago.

“We have had a lot of dialogue with Rwanda. They are our neighbours and they will always be our neighbours,” said President Ndayishimiye.

“What we know is that Burundians and Rwandans do not hate each other … I see a lot of Rwandans over the weekend in Bujumbura and some getting married to Burundians,” said the president.

The two countries have had sour relations for the past seven years, with Burundi closing its borders with Rwanda and banning the exportation of fruits and vegetables to Kigali from 2016.

However, since President Ndayishimiye took over power in 2020, relations between the two countries improved significantly.

High level delegations from the two countries, including intelligence chiefs, governors and other senior government officials, have met several times in efforts to normalise relations.

“When there is a dispute and both countries send envoys and we talk, it’s a great achievement and I hope we will continue doing so. One day, you will see Rwanda handing them over and it will be the end of the problem,” said the president.

In July last year, Rwanda’s Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente visited Bujumbura for the Independence Day celebrations. This was the first time a high profile official from Rwanda had travelled to Burundi since the political crisis erupted in 2015.

Last year, Burundi said that positive steps had been taken towards strengthening peace and security in the region. Burundi helped Rwanda when terrorists who were planning to attack Kigali were arrested and handed over to Rwanda twice.

Rwanda reciprocated in July last year by handing over 19 armed men who had conducted an attack in Burundi and fled to Rwanda. - MOSES HAVYARIMANA, The East African

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