BUJUMBURA, Rwanda (AA) – Rwanda has expelled over 1,528 Burundians from its territory over the weekend, Burundian authorities said on Monday.
Speaking with Anadolu Agency, Burundian deputy Interior Minister Terence Ntahiraja said: "Between Friday and Sunday evening, we have received some 1,528 people in Ngozi, Kayanza and Kirundo provinces.
"Burundi received them with open arms and encourages those who are still in Rwanda to also return."
Relations between the two East African states escalated last year after the Burundian President, Pierre Nkurunziza, accused Rwanda of hosting “rebels” who allegedly want to overthrow him.
“A memorandum of aggression against Burundi” was released on May 14 by Willy Nyamitwe, communications adviser of Nkurunziza.
In this document, Burundi claims Rwanda was supporting the destabilization of “Burundian institutions and put in a place a favorable regime, above all the ideological interests of the RPF [ruling party Rwandan Patriotic Front] and other geopolitical and geostrategic interests of certain western powers.”
Rwanda denies the accusations.
Commenting on the mass deportation, Rwandan Minister for Refugees Seraphine Mukantabana told the French radio, RFI, over the weekend that it was not an “action against Burundi”, but it only targeted “people with irregular situations.”
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees puts the number of refugees that have fled Burundi since the crisis began in April 2015 at almost 260,000 people.
“Thousands more could join them over the rest of the year unless a political solution is found and a descent into civil war is averted,” the UN agency said in April.
Burundi security and political crisis started on April 2015 when Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his candidacy for a third term.
Since then, more than 400 people have been killed, including several high-ranking military officials.
The worst of the violence occurred on Dec. 11 when 87 people were killed in clashes in the Rwandan capital Bujumbura.