Rwanda announced plans to relocate 70,000 Burundian refugees Friday, a reversal of position since Wednesday, when Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said the refugees would not be removed. Photo courtesy of the Rwandan Foreign Ministry.
KIGALI , Rwanda, Feb. 12 (UPI) -- Rwanda announced plans Friday to relocate as many as 70,000 refugees who fled there from neighboring Burundi.
The small, impoverished African countries are engaged in diplomatic tension, with Burundi claiming Rwanda is destabilizing its government by arming and training Burundian refugees to fight as rebels. Rwanda denies the accusations.
Over 240,000 people have fled Burundi since violence began in April, when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would run for a third term.
On Friday, the Rwandan government released a statement saying it would "immediately begin working with partners in the international community to plan the orderly and safe relocation of Burundian refugees to third countries." It did not specify which countries will receive the refugees.
"The callous indifference to the well-known root causes of instability in Burundi, and the refugee exodus, is troubling. It also exposes refugees to increased threats from forces at home and compromises lasting political solutions. For Rwanda, the growing risks to our national security from the Burundian impasse and misunderstandings in our foreign relations are unacceptable," Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said in the statement.
The new relocation policy is at odds with comments Mushikiwabo made Wednesday. She told a Rwandan senatorial committee, "The problem is solely for Burundians. The political disputes are between citizens of Burundi, but we are not going to kick out Burundians fleeing the country because they are not friends with their government."