Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame received a message from his Burundian counterpart Évariste Ndayishimiye in what observers interpreted as raising hope for possible restoration of strained bilateral relations.
The two countries have had strained relations since 2015.
Ezechiel Nibigira, Burundi’s Minister in charge of EAC Affairs, Youth, Culture and Sports, led a delegation that delivered Ndayishimiye’s message on Monday afternoon.
The two held discussions that focused on strengthening bilateral relations, the President’s office said.
Details of the message were, however, not made public.
The development signals possible move towards normalising relations, following a series of engagements to resolve key contentious issues at the centre of relations that turned sour in 2015.
Late President Pierre Nkurunziza’s regime accused Rwanda of supporting its opponents and providing refuge to individuals behind the failed coup in 2015.
It is after President Ndayishimiye came to power that the countries started talking, including making subsequent moves to address disagreements.
Kigali and Bujumbura government and security officials have since August 2020 been meeting publicly to discuss issues ranging from security at common borders, exchange of alleged criminals, among others.
Rwanda also facilitated the return of more than 8,000 Burundian refugees on its soil since August 27, 2020, according to the UN refugee agency data, while 12,000 more have formally expressed their intention to return to Burundi.
Kigali also granted Bujumbura’s request to close media operations of exiled Burundian journalists in March last year.
The media outlets, which include two radio stations – Radio RPA and Inzamba – as well as Télévision Renaissance had been operating on Rwandan soil soon after their journalists fled the 2015 violence in which independent media practitioners, civil society organisations and opposition politicians were targeted.
Broadcasting largely on the internet, the media attracted a large audience of Burundians back home, in the diaspora and among the refugees.
Officials of both countries have also continued dialogue with regard to political refugees Burundi wants deported.