Rwanda, Burundi intelligence officials try to diffuse tensions

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Military intelligence chiefs from Rwanda and Burundi Wednesday met for talks aimed at warming relations which have been on a downswing since the escalation of tensions five years ago.

In a statement issued after the meeting, Col Leon Mahoungou, the commander of the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism (EJVM), a regional military framework for 12 countries of the Great Lakes region, expressed optimism, saying that both parties had expressed the willingness and commitment to solve the security challenges that have strained their relations.

“I am very satisfied with the results from this exchange. Both parties took commitment in resolving the security problems on the common border.  They expressed readiness to share information, open dialogue between their defence leadership and cooperate to restore security on their common border in the interest of peace and security in the region,” he said.

The meeting proposed mechanisms to resolve long standing issues between the two countries but also restore warm relations going forward, Mahoungou, told reporters after the meeting at the countries’ common border at Nemba in eastern Rwanda’s Bugesera district.

Speaking earlier during the opening ceremony, Mahoungou mentioned the need for both countries to work toward ensuring peace and security in the region.

The meeting was a good start toward normalizing relations, the head of Rwandan delegation at the meeting, Vincent Nyakarundi, the head of Defense Intelligence at the Rwanda Defense Force said in his opening remarks.

He stressed the importance sharing intelligence information in addressing cross border security issues.

Col. Everest Musaba, Burundi’s chief of military intelligence who led the Burundian delegation, called for frank discussions to bring out the truth on the causes of the tensions in order to find solutions. 

Relations between the two neighboring east African countries deteriorated since 2015 with accusations and counter accusations.

Rwanda accused the Burundian government under former president Pierre Nkurunziza of hosting elements of its rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), allowing them to roam freely between Burundi and their base in DR Congo.

On the other hand the Burundian government accused Kigali of supporting its opponents.

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