Rwanda, Burundi strengthen security ties

Director of Prisons, ACP Balinda Steven (L) and head of Burundi delegation Gabriel Nizigama at Ministry of Internal Affairs conference room.

Rwanda and Burundi have shored up cooperation on security issues along their common border after concluding a high-level security meeting at the Ministry of Internal Security (MININTER) yesterday.

The two-day meeting was a follow up of what is called the Grande Commission Mixte de Cooperation Rwando-Burundaise which was launched in Burundi in 2006.

"This is the sub-committee on security between the two countries and we had been obliged to postpone the meeting because we had other tasks," explained Ambassador Joseph Mutaboba, the MININTER Secretary General, who presided over its opening and closing sessions.

"We have been able to tackle various security problems, especially crime, at our common border," he said. He cited the problem of infiltrators or abacengezi and drug dealers as among the other problems the two have dealt with together.

"We also looked at the issue of refugees and we encouraged them to come back home especially since their security is guaranteed," he said, emphasizing what Gabriel Nizigama, head of the Burundi delegation had earlier said.

"In this meeting, we agreed that all should return home especially since the security situation in these countries is satisfying," Nizigama said.

Apart from enforcing border security and the refugee issue, the meeting also resolved to check on illegal immigrants, among others.

Fraud, theft and drugs, among many others, were thoroughly tackled in the session which recommended reinforcing border controls, information exchange by security services, regular and joint security operations and the identification and repatriation of illegal immigrants, among others.

"For example, we have had a number of Rwandans in the rebel group FNL Palipehutu. The Burundians are the ones able to effectively identify who is Rwandan and who is Burundian, and can thus help their repatriation," Mutaboba explained, adding that the next step involves putting in place proper monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to make sure results are achieved.

The Party for the Liberation of the Hutu People (also known as PALIPEHUTU, the acronym of its French name Parti pour la liberation du peuple Hutu) is a rebel group in Burundi. Its armed wing is the National Forces of Liberation (FNL or Forces nationales de liberation).

"The next step is to see how much we all can do in each area of concern to make sure that we get an evaluation and monitoring scheme," he said, emphasizing the importance of having proper "indicators to show how far we have reached."

In an earlier exclusive interview, Nizigama, however, could not put a figure to the exact number of illegal immigrants, saying it was not easy since they were not registered.

"These people are not registered anywhere and thus it is difficult," he said.

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