Relations between Rwanda and Burundi continue to flare following accusations by Bujumbura that Rwandan soldiers had kidnapped a Burundian fisherman along their common river border.
“[Rwandan] soldiers first fired five shots into the air and two fishermen, Ndayikengurukiye Jackson and Bucumi, who were returning to check on their fish trap in the Ruhwa River panicked and fled separately,” Burundi Police spokesperson, Pierre Nkurikiye, said in a statement Thursday.
According to Nkurikiye, Bucumi fled to the Burundian side while Ndayikengurukiye dived into the Ruhwa River from which Rwandan soldiers ordered him to follow them “or otherwise be shot”.
Rwanda has yet to comment on the accusations.
The allegations came just hours after Rwanda claimed that unidentified assailants attacked a local drinking spot on Tuesday night, near its southwestern border with Burundi, killing one person and injuring eight others.
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“Unidentified attackers opened fire on people who were in a bar and hurled two grenades killing one civilian and injuring eight, and immediately disappeared,” Lt Col René Ngendahimana, the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) spokesperson, said.
Some residents told local media in Rwanda that the gunmen fled to the Burundian side, claims the Rwandan military said it had yet to prove.
“The motive, origin and the identity of the assailants are yet to be established, but investigations are ongoing to establish all these details,” Ngendahimana said.
In Burundi, Nkurikiye said residents near the border reported to have heard gunshots on Tuesday night at about 9:30pm across Ruhwa River on the Rwandan side.
The attack happened in the same area where gunmen killed two Rwandans in March before crossing the border, Rwanda authorities said. Burundi however refuted the claim.
Following the latest incident, Rwandan government officials assured citizens living close to the border that security would be heightened.
The Minister of Local Government Francis Kaboneka along with RDF Chief of Staff Major-General Jacques Musemakweli, and the Inspector General of Police Emmanuel Gasana toured the area to reassure residents.
Kaboneka promised them that the government would keep them safe from future attacks.
“We are going to work with the local population and we believe no more incident will follow. I want to assure you that our national security organs are doing their job, and you should not be troubled,” Kaboneka said.
“These are people who do not wish well for Rwanda; they are there and we have dealt with them; we have for several times beat them and they will never win,” he added.
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Relations between Bujumbura and Kigali have been deteriorating since April 2015. Burundi accuses Rwanda of aiding the failed May 2015 coup attempt; backing rebel groups and recruiting fighters from the thousands of Burundian refugees in Rwanda to fight the government. Rwanda strongly denies the accusations.
Axadle International Monitoring – Africa